I grew up in a house with one bathroom and three sisters. Add my mom and dad and you don’t have to be a mathematician to know that’s an equation begging for logistical problems. Easier jobs have been given to air traffic controllers.
Given the amount of scheduling conflicts over the course of a childhood, I learned to travel the path of least resistance. For the lesser of my needs, the backyard jack pine sufficed during daylight hours. Night time found me in the company of a good shadow provided by the glow of streetlight. It was peaceful. A little chilly in winter, but still peaceful.
As for the greater of nature’s numerical calls, when waiting my turn was absolutely not an option, and banging against the bathroom door yelling murderous threats produced no results, I sprinted across the street to Jim and Lynn Kvidt’s house.
Jim and Lynn Kvidt (pronounced kuh-VIT) moved to Roseau, Minnesota when I was about 9 years-old. Jim was a friendly guy about 30 with the straightest teeth I’d ever seen. He talked like Kermit the Frog. Not once did he turn me down for a game of catch with the baseball. He’d even played semi-professionally and gave me pointers on pitching. Most important, Jim Kvidt drove the Frito-Lay potato chip truck. Once a month, my family found a big cardboard box on our front porch filled with bags of Cheetos and Funyuns.
Lynn Kvidt became my mother’s closest friend and confidant. They talked at least twice a day over the telephone despite living 75 feet from each other’s front door. Had she wanted, Lynn Kvidt could have moved to Africa and kept in touch with my mother just as well. I’m not sure what they talked about. All I know is it was everything. It had to be. Nobody can spend that much time on a telephone and not have covered every subject from Aardvark to Zyzzyva.
Given the closeness I felt around Jim and Lynn Kvidt, I felt safe requesting the use of their bathroom in my greatest times of need. Honestly, the word “bathroom” doesn’t seem good enough. “Safe house” or “room of mercy” feels more appropriate.
I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on this subject and I think the highest compliment you can pay somebody is to ask permission to use their bathroom when you’re visibly experiencing intense irritable bowel syndrome. If I had to choose anyone to spot a kid about to soil his drawers based on facial features and the frequency of doorbell rings, I’d choose Jim and Lynn Kvidt. Their hand gesture welcoming me in was not unlike a labrador’s master unleashing it to chase after a tennis ball.
I will always be grateful to Jim and Lynn Kvidt for their friendship with my family, and the many games of catch with the baseball. I cannot overemphasize, however, how equally grateful I am for their discretion and adequate plumbing, without which who knows where I’d be.