Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Show your patronage?

Elaine: "Jer, do you see where this is going?"
Jerry: "Being really clean and happy?"

The past several days have been a bit exhausting and full of more firsts for our laconic blogger.

There was my first time to throw a frisbee into a frolf basket. Bystanders equated the experience to seeing a young Michael Jordan score his first basket. Or a still fully-cropped eight-year-old Gallagher smashing a grape with his spoon at the family dinner table.

There was also my first time walking on Beale Street. And at dinner Friday night, another first. Involving the restroom. Not surprisingly. As some of you know already, I have very specific procedures and rules when it comes to public restroom etiquette. I write about things I know and things that are important to me. Seinfeld and going to the bathroom properly seem to be high on that list.

As soon as we were seated at dinner, I excused myself to the men's room in order to relieve an impending urethral requirement which had been steadily building over the past hour. (Buying the Gin Blossoms CD before Tower Records closed had taken precedence over everything else.)

I entered to find an extremely small area. Straight ahead there was a sink. Just to the left of the sink there was a single urinal, separated from the sink by only a small partition, which extended out about eighteen inches from the wall. Directly to the left of the door was a stall.

Two guys were standing in front of the sink as I entered. The room was so small that I had to say "Excuse me" in order to squeeze by them and get to my porcelain oasis. They were talking, which constitutes a direct violation of the male restroom code already. However, as it was a small area, the noise allowed me a bit of a buffer. Sometimes it's hard to go if someone is standing right there and everything is quiet.

So as I disburdened, I could hear that one guy was asking the other about the best places to go and what stayed open late. The asker left and I flushed. As I turned to the sink, the askee said, "How you doing?" He had a squeeze bottle full of something pink, which I took to be soap, that he was holding as if to offer it to my hands. Suddenly it dawned on me that he worked here.

This is the first time I've ever encountered a... what do you call these people who work in the restrooms and offer you towels and such? Matrons? Except this was a guy. So does that make him a... patron? I guess. Anyway, this was my first experience such a person.

I quickly followed procedure holding out my hands in a very Allstate-like fashion. He squirted some soap on them, and already had the faucet running. It was a very good temperature. Not too hot, but warm. I was impressed. Then offered me a towel, which I accepted.

As I turned to exit, he said, "Can I interest you in a mint, or maybe a cigar?" Whoa, whoa, whoa! A mint? From the bathroom? And not even a nice large luxurious bathroom. But a one urinal-one stall bathroom. I guess he doesn't know me very well. I won't even chew gum when I go into my own bathroom, for fear that the germs will infiltrate my mouth. I'm not about to take a mint which has been basking for who knows how long in this germ incubator.

So I say no thanks. And at the same time I see a box full of money sitting on a shelf behind him. Oh, I'm supposed to tip? I offered a "All I have is a twenty." Which was true. To which he responded, "I have change if you need it." What do you tip a patron? I had no idea. So I tipped two bucks.

We had dinner while listening to a blues band. Afterward, I wanted--needed--to wash my hands after the slab of slightly-too-salty ribs we had devoured. But I didn't want to go back to the bathroom and face the patron again. I wasn't going to tip him twice in one night. But I didn't want to go in and not tip him either.

He kept leaving the bathroom every so often. For a break, I guess. I thought of planning my handwashing trip for when he was gone. But he was never gone more than a couple of minutes. I probably should have gone back in. I could picture a very Larry David-like moment occurring if I had.

I'm all for people making money anyway they can. But an attendant, in a cafe/bar, in a bathroom with two receptacles? That's a bit much. So I decided to just ask sign our waitress for some wetnaps, which I determined involves holding your hands up head-high, wrists touching, and wiggling all your fingers in the air. She obliged, and we left.

And don't get me started on the germ havens that are public toothpick dispensers.

Another topic for another day.

"Saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue. Followed him up to the gates of Graceland and watched him walk right thru..."


  1. at first i thought that maybe that bathroom attendant fella was scamming because why would such a small bathroom require such a thing?

    come to think of it, i am still perplexed.

    great post!

    :) sizzle

  2. Hey Bone, can you Flickr exactly what that hand gesture was again?

    I have a huge aversion to mints and toothpicks in restaurants. I was watching a very important television show one time (not unlike NOVA). They said that something like 94% of mints and toothpicks in restaurants have fecal matter on them because people go to the bathroom, don't wash their hands, and then dig around in the mint bowl. I never touch the stuff.

  3. Okay. Beale Street is in . . . Memphis? Or New Orleans? I can never remember.

    Anyways, bathroom attendants in old Southern joints are not uncommon. Especially places that have been around for a long time. I mean, I don't know if the place you were at was a chain restaurant or an independently owned establishment so I can't really say with certainty if that's the reasoning for having an attendant.

    Maybe the restaurant feels like it classes the joint up to have an attendant. I'd be interested to know if the women's restroom had the same thing.

    I've been in airports before that had attendants.

    And not to play into your OCD issues, but the Mythbusters did this whole episode on how far away your toothbrush has to be from the toilet in order to not get fecal matter on it from flushing. And apparently, the only way to not get stuff on the toothbrush no matter where it's stored is to cover it with non-porous material (like a toothbrush holder or a plastic baggie).

  4. Ms. S: Actually, I wondered the same thing. Even typed it as part of my post, but deleted it. His box was just this shoebox-looking thing. And maybe he kept coming out every few minutes to see if the manager was around.

    OCG: I will see what I can do. I can definitely see that. With the toothpicks, depending on what kind of dispenser, hundreds of greasy, germy hands have touched the surface that your toothpick is rolling across. Gross!

    Xinh: Beale is in Memphis. Bourbon is in New Orleans.

    I don't believe it is a chain. And the women's did not have an attendant. So perhaps I was scammed?

    Someone was telling me about the toothbrush in the bathroom thing just the other day actually. I've already made the necessary adjustments. However I'm finding it difficult to live with the knowledge that for 33 years... ugh! Shudder at the thought.

    OK, enough about fecal matter for one day. I'm going to drink some Clorox or something :)

  5. Another way to help with traveling fecal matter, in fact, the only safe way to eliminate the bacteria or lessen it, is to shut the lid of the toilet before flushing. It's the circulation of the water that distributes most of the bacteria. Yeah, I'm a loser, I know that crapola.

    As for the attendant, it just depends on what you're comfortable with. On Beale, from what I discerned from a friend who's a club owner, two to three dollars is typical. If you're in NY or elsewhere, it's obviously more. Typically a fiver.

    I'm just full of useless info tonight. On the NONE useless end, do what I do, carry a bottle of dissolving antibiotic gel with you everywhere. I have one in my purse, one in my console, typically one in my pocket, etc. I can't bear to think my hands are dirty. And it absolves you from having to re-tip Bathroom Boy. :) Good luck!

  6. Wow! 2 bucks?!? You are very generous. I think that would have covered it for the entire evening. I really hate small bathrooms like that. But, you did give me an idea for a job. Wonder if I could get a job in a mens room. Um, can I hold something for you sir?

  7. Huh. I didn't know there was a "wave" for requesting wetnaps. Can you tell how often I patronize BBQ joints? LOL.

    And the bathroom thing...that almost makes me wonder if the guy was really an employee of the eating establishment if the bathroom was that tiny. But I guess the owner would have tossed him out on his tushy if he wasn't an employee.

    And gee, he wasn't too subtle about the tip, was he? ;)

  8. I am learning so much about bathroom etiquette from you! I just wish you had a female version...well maybe that wouldn't be a good idea.

    Maybe you could offer some suggestions for the "Spare a square" show... I'm guessing because of the NO Discussions rule that would NEVER happen in the Men's room, huh?

  9. Lederer's Girl: I can shut the lid before flushing. That's easy enough. I'll have to get in the practice of doing that.

    Carnealian: Only you. lol

    Yeah, I think that would cover it, too. But what if he didn't remember me? Then it would be awkward. Maybe I just watch too much Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    Chickadee: No, he wasn't. Now I feel like I got scammed. Especially since there was no one in the ladies' room.

    Renee: Yeah, probably not. Actually, I never do that in public restrooms. Urinals only. So I never need a square. I can see how that would be a problem for women though.

  10. There are some jobs I would never want and a bathroom attendant is one of them. UGH!

  11. Sorry. 2 bucks is EXTREMELY too much. In fact, as ridiculous as a bathroom attendant is, no tip is much more appropriate. Sure, you sort of feel bad the first time but you get over it really quick and you never think about it when it happens again.

    Bathroom attendants are nothing but annoying and prevent the shy male from using the bathroom at all. I think that is the biggest waste of a tip in the entire world. Well, I must correct myself. The Maitre d' is the most useless. I've made the mistake of tipping them before and they expect to be tipped more than the waitress/waiter at a table!

    I tip well.... but ONLY to those who deserve it.

  12. I ususally only tip the attendants if I require any of their additional services. For instance, in the women's room they will have all sorts of lotions and perfumes and cigarettes, etc. I figure the soap is complimentary right? If I ask them to go above and beyond, then I'll tip them. I would like to hear the proper etiquette on this though, as i worked at a restaurant in college and always hope to tip people what is expected/deserved.

  13. I've been thinking about getting my own bathroom attendant. I mean, they are so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

    But then I'd have to move to Chicago and eat pancreas. I don't think they do wet naps either.

    Well, scrap that.

  14. Sherry: Yeah, me neither. Although he had a shoebox full of cash.

    Buzz: Yeah, he completely caught me off guard though. And by shy male, you mean normal male. If the two of them hadn't been talking, I probably wouldn't have been able to go. With just one guy standing there, in silence, like four feet away. It's near impossible.

    Tenacious Tipper: I'm sure I could google it. And again, I would have felt better about it had it been one of those large bathrooms with carpet and chairs to lounge in and such.

    Dorothy: Perhaps you should consider getting an intern from NYU. I have some chicken wire I can lend you.

  15. I have only had one incident where there was an attendant in a men's restroom. It was in The Tabernacle in Atlanta [a music venue]. The guy hardly did anything. It was a big enough restroom where the rest of the urinal users could skate around employing his "services." He handed me a towel, and I tipped him $1. That's appropriate. Like someone said above, if he had done something else I can see tipping more.

    And I'm with you one the no talking rule in the bathroom. Well, except for either "boy this water sure is cold," or "this water sure is deep." :)

  16. Okay, you wash your hands...the attendant hands you a towel and you tip... NOW YOUR HANDS ARE DIRTY FROM TOUCHING THE MONEY! wash again, dry again, tip again?

    too confusing! I'll leave my purse in the car!

  17. In a lot of women's bathrooms (depending on the venue) there's like a massive ass basket full of random stuff that one would need on a night out (aquanet, nail polish, trojans etc.) Usually I'm drunk enough by then, that I'm in awe and/or tipping the bathroom attendent $20.

  18. Good idea for a scam: Buy a $1 bottle of soap at the dollar store. Stand in a men's room squirting it at people. Bone, you already gave this guy 100% profit!!! It's really a good idea actually!
    BTW, word verification: nJUNKql

  19. Big Man: Yeah, this guy hardly did anything either. I mean, I can tear off my own paper towel.

    Renee: Good point! That could have been my excuse. "I'm sorry, but I've already washed my hands and don't want to get them dirty by handling money."

    Heather B: I'm just used to getting things like that out of a machine, I guess :)

    GroovyC: I think so. I'm beginning to think it was just a scam. I mean, really, who gives out mints in a bathroom? Yuck!

  20. Yea, Those wonderful bathroom attendants are all over this freakin' city. You can't get away from them. I appreciate the thought, don't get me wrong...but still.

    I am glad ya'll enjoyed Memphis..

  21. Yeah...those attendants are everywhere in south Florida. I usually always tipped $3-$5's...each time I used the restroom. The attendants always seemed to be elderly people and I just always pictured them making squat from Medicare and not being able to get any other job. What's nasty is that some women's restrooms have a full asortment of makeup to use. Can you say easy way to contract pink eye, herpes, etc? Blech. And I always threw my money down before washing my hands that way they touched the soap, they handed me my towel and then I would even wait until they opened the door for me to leave too! Yeah...up here in Podunk MidWest...I don't think there are bathroom attendants anywhere.

  22. Tiffany: I'm with you. Next we'll be expected to tip the people who park the cars.

    (I'm kidding.)

    Boobless: Very smart having your money out before you wash. I am currently working on a germophobic handwashing post. And thanks for stopping by and commenting :)