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NY TIMES | Standing Sentry, Armed With a Towel

NY TIMES | Standing Sentry, Armed With a Towel

Andrew Jacobs looks at the experiences of some of New York’s bathroom attendants:

Nola Dossantos spends her nights in a windowless room at the back of an elegant restaurant. She deals in solicitous smiles and dollops of liquid soap, then turns on the tap, waiting obligingly with a sheet of paper towel. She is stoic with the haughty and generous to the confessional.

On a bad night, when a woman has had a few too many cosmos, she is quick with a mop and bucket. Her services are sometimes rewarded with a dollar bill, but most evenings she heads home to Brooklyn with less than $20 for a seven-hour shift.

* * *

Lorenzo Robinson, who has been standing sentry in the “21” Club’s men’s room for 15 years, says he could not imagine a better occupation. “To me, it’s such a privilege to come to work,” said Mr. Robinson, 62, who is better known as the Rev, and whose father, uncle and nephew stood in the same bathroom. “The next stop is heaven.” Mr. Robinson is effusively attentive, greeting each new arrival with a booming voice, a sense of purpose and lavish praise. (“Young man, are you playing hooky from boarding school?” he will ask an elderly man returning from the urinal.)

As the banter continues, Mr. Robinson turns on the water, checks its temperature with a pinkie, dispenses a squidge of soap into open palm and pats a lint brush across the patron’s shoulders in a series of motions so quick and discreet they are barely noticed. Even before the man can wet his hands, Mr. Robinson is ready with towel; cloth, not paper.

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