12/27/2010

No Man Is an Island, But Sometimes He Should Be



The restaurant is nice, too nice, really. The table cloth is starched and the portions are tiny. The staff is well spoken and the service exceptional. I'm very familiar with such surroundings yet never quite comfortable. It's the kind of place I've spent too much time in as an employee and very little as a customer.

After a nice dinner I found myself in for quite a shock, my own fault really, for having failed to anticipate. Working so long in this industry, I always used the staff toilet, the sterile cubicle by the back door and never the palatial, sharply decorated customer facilities. And what did I find there that raised my ire? I found a man standing the the restroom waiting to attend me. Don't misunderstand, he was a fine fellow, polite, well spoken, amicable, competent. He ran the water for me, offered me a towel and cologne. I'm sure he's exactly the kind of person one would want doing these sorts of things. Except, I don't want anyone doing these sorts of things at all.

I don't trust bathroom valets.

I don't mean the individual people that valet in bathrooms and I don't mean the profession, itself.

I mean I don't trust the cultural impetus that says we should have valets in our bathrooms. It is to each person to be an autonomous being and to make there own way in the world. Ergo, there are some things that each and every person who is able should have to do for themselves. Making one's toilet is at the very top of the list. Moreover, these are activities in which I do not feel comfortable being offered assistance.

I don't trust the people that want to be waited upon in the bathroom. It's fine to have someone else cook and bring you your food, make your coffee, wash your clothes, mow your lawn, pump your gas and the like. It is perfectly reasonable if one is too busy, lacks the relevant skills or simply chooses to pay someone else to perform these tasks. In the bathroom, though, we should draw a line. What person feels that they are so important or so entitled to luxury that they cannot be troubled to turn on a faucet or to dry their own hands after taking a piss?

I don't like that presumption. More than that, I don't like going somewhere and having it presumed that I might make that presumption. I like it even less when I do go to such a place and want to wash my own hands I'm somehow considered out of line for wanting to perform my bodily functions and the requisite cleaning in private.

I admit that I'm not all that classy a guy but that I can fake it for a few hours at a time. If this is what upper-crust is supposed to be, I'll just have pizza.

5 comments:

Snoozepossum said...

I agree with you on these points for the most part. My experience with places that have lavatory valets is more from bars and clubs, where you're likely to spend more time than in a restaurant. My exception to the dislike of having someone wait on me as if I were a toddler or an idiot is that sometimes it IS nice to be able to pop into the bathroom for an aspirin or some saline eye drops if I need them. And in the current job market, I'm not going to grudge anyone a relatively honest job.

Another side of the bathroom attendant is the benefit to the restaurant staff, not the customers. When there's an attendant, people are more self-conscious about just throwing paper and towels on the floor, and making other messes. They're also much less likely to do other things that can present a problem. At one of the bars I worked at in Myrtle Beach, SC, we had attendants to stave off the twits who think a bathroom stall is a perfect place to do a line or do business. That was a result of the city charging the bar with aiding and abetting after a dealer got busted. I seriously doubt that municipal officials monitor their own employee bathrooms, but that's how enforcement rolls.

Tom Harper said...

Lewis Black should use that restroom you're talking about. In one of his skits he was saying that if he had so much money that money was no object, he'd hire his own personal ball-washer.

LulĂș said...

Ha! The first time I walked into a restroom in a fancy restaurant and was offered a towel (a fancy one, not paper) and perfume and all, I felt like I was being hit on. Not my cup o' tea AT ALL! Not to mention I was escorted by one of the hosts to the bathroom (he even held the door open for me). I was weirded OUT!

I don't care how fancy a place is I agree that we should do some of these basic (and rather private) things for ourselves. Next thing you know they'll want to walk in the stall with us and help us wipe. Not cool.

Anonymous said...

Thomas-
Just had to click over to your blog to say I loved this comment you left on another blog site...

>>I am now motivated to write a series of short stories all called "Book 3," each with a different subtitle.

"Book 3, part 2: the return of part 1."<<

Very funny!

And now that I've seen your blog, I'll have to read more of it. Good stuff. Feel the same way about valets -- well, come to think of it ANY valets, especially ones who want to take my car somewhere! And loved your post about the holidays/winter -- very provocative. (Have to say, though, that it is harder to read white on black background than black on white -- sometimes there's a reason for the traditional.)

I'll look around your spot, but I'm wondering about book length stuff you've written (yeah, already, after reading only 2 posts!).

Jim Snell
billyclubboy@yahoo.com

John Myste said...

Your writing reminds me of Nichson Baker's.

I have never found a valet in my restroom, not sober anyway. I think I may have had one once, who offered me a towette of some kind at the door.

Sober, I would turn and leave if this happened.