ELMHURST – Hundreds of local parents inexplicably living in something called a “two-income household” and unable to afford a nanny or to rely on a single breadwinner for their family braved the frigid temperature, the constant rumbling of nearby freight trains, and the company of fellow Elmhurst residents by standing in line for hours outside the First Street YMCA Saturday morning for the opportunity to register their kids for a prized after-school program offered by the local community center that transports children from their school to the “Y” every day and allows parents to pick them up as late as 6:00 p.m.
With space for the 2017-2018 school year program limited by the maximum occupancy of one bus per District 205 school and further reduced by a grandfather clause that allows early registration for current program members, parents began lining up outside the First Street YMCA around midnight for the 6:00 a.m. registration start and were challenged to stay awake, to keep warm, and to interact on friendly terms with other Elmhurst residents competing for same program spots and whose demeanor ranged from “slaphappy” to “irritated”.
“I’ve been out here since about 2:00 a.m.,” said Emerson Elementary dad Max Knight, angrily clutching a Shell gas station large “regular” coffee diluted with an off-brand sugar substitute and a powdered non-dairy creamer while standing in front of the warming flames of a burning Elmhurst Park District garbage can, placed on the sidewalk about 20 feet from the front door of the YMCA. “If we don’t get into this program, then my wife will probably have to quit her job so she can pick up our daughter from school every day. And then there goes our trip to the Wisconsin Dells this summer.”
While the stress weighed heavily on the minds of many parents waiting to find out if their children would get into the swanky after-school program noted for turning meagerly-athletic children into adequate swimmers, skaters, and mixed-martial arts competitors, others clearly embraced the comradery of waiting outside in the cold with their fellow residents.
“I’ve had three shots of Fireball, so I’m feeling pretty warm inside,” said Jackson Elementary mom Sandy Meyer, referring to the popular cinnamon-flavored whiskey often compared to the flavor of Red Hots candy soaked in water and associated with a complex history of bad decisions by those who have over-consumed the spirit. “It’s just so nice to share this nice experience with other nice people, and to share a drink or two.”
YMCA front desk clerk Brian Smoltz – scheduled to open the doors for registration at precisely 6:00 a.m. and instructed to “get the hell out of the way” after he does so – was concerned that some parents would display unhappiness or frustration if their kids weren’t able to get into the Y’s after-school program.
“I’m not the ‘bad guy’ here,” said Smoltz, wearing swim trunks, a tank top and flip-flops while staring out the YMCA windows at a large crowd of drowsy, shivering zombies waiting to complete the registration process and go back home to bed. “So if they can’t get into the program, it’s not my fault. Maybe these people should have thought about child care first before moving to Elmhurst.”