Street Smarts: In The Throne Room

In days of old, the King was always worried about being killed by his foes while sitting on the throne; obviously some things never change.

You will quickly guess where I was sitting when inspiration struck for this month’s column.

I had just retired to my favorite thinking spot atop the cool white porcelain when a thought occurred: using the restroom is an everyday human activity fraught with tactical problems, but something that is seldom discussed.

I immediately realized this was a grand idea for a column. “Besides,” I thought, “imagine the bathroom humor possibilities.”

First, we are talking solely about public restroom facilities. If you are concerned about attack in your own home, then you need to reconsider your living arrangements or contact a reality television program. You are also in danger if you live in a barracks or dorm, but this column won’t cover assault by shaving cream, water bucket and digital camera.

The reason for violence in public bathrooms is simple: you are obviously indisposed and not in a good position to fight back. The dirtballs of the world know this well.

The first step to staying safe in the restroom is our old friend Situational Awareness. In nearly every restroom attack I have covered, the victim saw the suspect(s) in the area prior to the incident. Regardless, they continued onward with their mission, happily ignorant in the idea that they would personally never become a victim of crime. We all should know better.

If you are making a pit stop and there are creepy people hanging around, you need to reconsider the urgency of your visit. The danger is dramatically increased during late night and early morning hours, since this is prime hunting time for the felons and perverts of the world.

Colleagues and I have discussed, humorously and otherwise, the proper tactical positioning in a restroom. Our learned debates eventually concluded that if men are conducting stand-up operations, you are safest inside a restroom stall with the door shut and secured. Obviously, you have no choice if you are female or the visit is for a more complicated reason (unless you have the manners of my former college roommates).

It is always a good idea to travel with a partner when using a public restroom, especially during late hours or in desolate locations. Women are obviously way ahead of men on this point, although we don’t believe it is for tactical reasons. Ideally your group will remain spread out at all times to make it more difficult for a potential attacker to achieve control.

Typically one person is finished before the other, but Speedy Gonzales should remain inside, busying himself with hand washing or grooming in the mirror to make sure his partner can complete their visit unmolested.

A good bluff can be handy at times. One time during a late-night visit to an interstate rest stop, two suspicious-looking young men entered the restroom where I was blissfully ignoring my own rule while standing blithely and alone at the urinals. Though I was indeed armed, I didn’t like the odds and blurted out, “Hey Bill, I’ll be outside when you’re done,” to my imaginary partner inside one of the stalls. Nothing happened as I quickly left the bathroom, but I often wonder if my little put-on planted enough doubt in their minds to stop them from requesting my wallet or worse.

Of course, it’s never a bad idea to leave as quickly as possible if things begin to look dicey. It is better to exit with unwashed hands than turn your back on someone who is spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror picking his teeth while obviously waiting for potential witnesses to leave the restroom.

Here is another great mystery of life that we will attempt to address: what should you do with your handgun while conducting a sit-down transaction inside a stall?

There are several ways to handle this situation. The simplest technique is to place the gun carefully and silently on the toilet tank, but I would caution against this for several reasons. First, many public restroom toilets don’t even have a tank in the first place, rendering the point moot. Secondly, regardless of how careful you are, it is very easy for the gun to slide off the slick porcelain surface and go clattering to the ground with the slightest provocation. Finally, more than one person has left a gun sitting on the toilet when they exited the stall.

Hanging your gun or holster from your belt over a hook (if provided) is another option, but there is still the good possibility of the gun falling to the ground, possibly damaging it and undoubtedly drawing unwanted attention. That leaves the inside-the-pants method.

This is not an ideal solution, but the best I have heard to date. To do this, you must hold your firearm in one hand while undoing your various belts, zippers and support garments with the other hand. Then, as you lower yourself into a sitting position, you place your gun into the basket formed by your pants and undergarments, taking great care not to point the muzzle at any part of your body.

Though it seems unlikely, this is a fairly secure position for the weapon. Even if you inadvertently move, the gun will usually remain in place or, at worst, start to silently slide down a pants leg. Once finished, you reverse the process to redress. One huge benefit of this technique is the fact that you will never leave your gun behind.

A final restroom consideration is all the other heavy junk we carry, such as flashlights, magazines, handcuffs, batons, chemical sprays or nuclear grenades. The best idea is to stow these things in a secured pant or shirt pocket prior to dropping your trousers in order to avoid the embarrassing clatter of bullets skittering across terrazzo.

Going to the restroom is not something most people think about a lot and hardly falls into the high-speed, low-drag category (dysentery notwithstanding). Give it some thought, however, as this is a time when you are very vulnerable. Situational awareness and prior planning may save your butt.

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