“What’s the Deal with Bathroom Attendants?” (In Which No One Can Pump Her Own Soap)

If you have ever lived in or visited a city of any size, and have patronized any restaurant, club, or bar that prides itself as being part of the “scene,” you have likely run into that  unique persona – the bathroom attendant.  This isn’t a tradition that’s new for the millennials – Hell, Kramer’s Mom held down this job in Seinfeld. At this point, I’ve even seen bathroom attendants in airports (Charlotte, I believe?) Ones that SING GOSPEL, no less.

Some are friendly and chipper (see above, what with the gospel singing), and some seem to hate life almost as much as the drunken yuppies crossing their path.  All, however, serve the same general (and arguably superfluous) purpose.  They pump soap into your hands, they hand you a paper towel to dry off, and they peddle their wares from an emergency kit of hair spray, tampons, gum, and Designer Imposters perfume (I imagine the guys’ attendants also have gum, but sub condoms for tampons). Side note: does anyone know if these kits are paid for by the establishment or by the attendant his/her self?

It is unspoken bathroom-attendant etiquette that while you can have your hands lathered and your towel passed to you on the house (though tips are always appreciated and largely expected in certain venues), anything from the emergency-supplies table – even a mere PEEK at this table – will cost a tip.  I once saw a girl’s hand quite literally slapped away by a bathroom attendant because she had dared to get close to something before tipping. (Okay, said girl was me and it was probably at a dueling piano bar). I get it – it’s a tangible good, no matter how inflated it might be ($1 for one measly spear-o-mint Life Saver!)

Photo courtesy of KelleysBreakroom.com 

But here’s the problem from a woman’s perspective.  I rarely carry my purse into the bathroom with me, especially if I’m at a sit-down dinner. (God forbid any other diners think I need it with me for some clinical reason). And if it is my first/only time visiting the bathroom, I’ll never be able to make good. And the attendant knows it.

Earlier this week (on a Wednesday!) at dinner with co-workers, I didn’t even get a pump of soap or a towel handed to me. This poor woman saw me enter empty-handed and rightly assumed I wasn’t worthy of one second of her time.

So my hand-washing experience was rushed and awkward and now I’m sure to wind up with some staph infection from the bathroom.  Yet another reason I need to stick to the world’s dive bars.