I remember reading a few years back that one of my favorite NYC after-shopping-drinking hotspots, infamous for being one of an elite few that regularly employed a bathroom attendant, was considering doing away with the job. If at the time of that reading I was still residing in New York, I am sure I would have applauded the idea of removing these poor souls out of the bowels (I know… I had to) of the bathroom and into a position more befitting within the company. The fact is, by this time I was already a 3 year expat in Germany where the job of bathroom attendant is not only a sound one but comes with decent tips and its share of benefits to boot. Germans have in fact perfected the role of the bathroom attendant, as restaurants, department stores, night clubs and even road-side gas stations (!) ensure the job is done right and we as guests, in respecting the institution.
The first time I walked into a typical Brauhaus (pub) bathroom in Germany, I steeled myself for the toilet paper I assumed I would gingerly step through on my way to the stall, the body fluids I was guaranteed to encounter in and around the toilet seat and of course the toilet paper that would most certainly not be available once it was needed (please see point 1.) What I found instead was a bathroom so clean I could eat off of the floor and in lieu of using the wet wipes I usually carried around in my handbag, I found a soap dispenser filled with fluid and hand dryer that was not only intact but fully functional. Who exactly did I have to thank for this Bathroom Paradise on earth? Why the bathroom attendant of course! Our attendant that evening, upon hearing movement on the ladies side of things, came barrelling out of the men's room armed with an assorted share of sanitizers and scrub brushes. As she neared, she slowly and meticulously eyeballed each of us to ensure we knew she had no intention of dealing with any of our bathroom nonsense and if necessary, was likely taking names. We all shuddered, tipped appropriately and left in a quiet and orderly fashion.
To be fair, not every German establishment has a bathroom attendant. What I have noticed however is that in lieu of or in combination with, there exists a different kind of public bathroom etiquette employed by Germans that I can only applaud. Clearly I can only speak to the goings on in the ladies room but I gotta tell you, Germans move through their bathroom needs with the same level of efficiency they tend to employ throughout their everyday lives. Never have I had to wait in a line or jostle through throngs of hair fluffing, lipstick applying, smack-talking ladies in an effort to run a bit of water and soap over my hands. Please trust that while living in the States I was the absolute worst of this kind - don’t even try and move me out of the way of a mirror when I am trying to pick out my afro - but since my time here, I have adopted the same precision with which the best of the public bathroom users employ.
I remember back in New York when V and I were a fresh item and upon exiting one extremely unkempt restaurant bathroom, I promptly began finger-listing it’s egregious mismanagement. V matter-of-factly pointed out that a restaurant with such bathrooms in Germany would be promptly shut down.
How I scoffed at such a notion.
“Shut down! That’s insane and a bit extreme. It’s not like I found human remains in there. Now granted I think I just contracted Ebola but I like the hamburgers up in here just a little too much for a shackling by the Health Board.”
I was like easy tiger...let’s just slow it down.
In moving my way through one German public bathroom experience after the next, it’s amazing how quickly I took to the idea of the bathroom attendant. I for one celebrate the job - the people who do it and the cleanliness with which they are able to deliver my public bathroom experience. So just a little tip for those of you who might find yourself kicking around in my neck of the woods – when nature calls, please come with a little change in hand as you make your way to the bathroom – these ladies and gents more than earned it.