Faced with the imminent loss of his job after Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget wrote that restaurants with bathroom attendants "really irritates me," Balthazar bathroom attendant Cheikhou Niane said he isn't too worried. "The owner is the owner," he told The Atlantic Wire. "But if he will stop, they'll see what happens."
Niane's job is in jeopardy because, after Blodget's Friday screed against Balthazar's bathroom attendants, restaurant owner Keith McNally told Foster Kamer at First We Feast, "Unfortunately, I completely agree with it and will, in the next few weeks, relieve the restaurant’s bathroom attendants of their duties."
Niane hadn't yet heard that news (neither had the manager on duty this morning, Katy Wagner) but he's confident that McNally won't follow through on the pledge (or threat, depending where you stand). After working as an attendant at Balthazar for four years, he thinks his job is too important to go without, which he said could be demonstrated by the time between when the restaurant opens at 7:30 a.m. and when he starts at 9 a.m. "If there's not somebody here," he said, "people come in, drop the paper, pee, no flushing," then added in a whisper, "make kaka, no flushing. Very very very messy."
Attendants have other tangible benefits, he said: "They take five of [paper towels]. Nobody wants that. I give one, but if no one here, they take five. When I come in the morning, all papers [on the floor]. Like today was a bad day. When I come in the morning, both of them [were messy]," he said, pointing to two stalls in the men's room.
Blodget's case against Niane rests on how Blodget feels when bathroom attendants are helpful and then expect a tip. "I am hit by the same series of unpleasant emotions: Annoyance, guilt, pity, uncomfortable invasion of personal space, and then... extortion," Blodget wrote, and called for the position to be ended. McNally said he came down with Blodget on the debate, "They’ll be unhappy to hear this, but, as I said, I happen to agree with Henry Blodget. I’m serious."
So why would Niane be so confident? Well, Balthazar already fired its attendants once before, back in January 2009 only to re-hire them by February. "I was not here at that time but somebody tell me they stopped the bathroom attendant before, but they call again," Niane said. "Everybody called in: Bring back bathroom attendant again. Bring again. This place is very busy. All the time, busy busy. People coming in out. ... If there's nobody here, I don't know."
And while Blodget insisted in his original anti-attendant rant that the guys who hand him towels must hate their stations in life ("I always feel bad for people who have no choice to do bad jobs because they have to"), Niane said he enjoys his job there and that he wasn't worried about his future employment. "I believe in God. I'm not worried. God will take care of me. ... I don't have any problem for that," Niane said.
When Blodget learned on Monday morning that his rant might cost some people their jobs, he expressed a little guilt on Twitter. "Whoa! I hope they're hiring them as waiters!" he tweeted, linking to the First We Feast article. "I hereby promise: @businessinsider will create at least 3 new jobs to replace the jobs lost by the excellent people Balthazar just canned," he continued, and then added: "Actually, let's try to save jobs of Balthazar bathroom guys… I will eat there every week and request them as waiters. Who's with me?" He followed up with a new post to rehire them as waiters, while Gawker's Hamilton Nolan has suggested Blodget hire the attendants as Business Insider writers.
Update: Niane won't be unemployed, but he may soon be handing out his last paper towel to a Balthazar diner. McNally wrote in another email to First We Feast that although he's still planning to get rid of his bathroom attendants, they will get new jobs elsewhere at his company. "They are lovely people and I’d like to work with them forever," McNally wrote.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.