The Most Dangerous Place: Public Restrooms


While we waited to board an airplane recently, my wife and I played a game of challenge questions. First question: Who has more “avoidance behaviors” in a public restroom — men or women? She came up with one: Don’t touch any of the doors or appliances with your hands. I promptly gave her this list for men:

  1. Always leave an empty urinal between you and the next guy.
  2. Never, under any circumstances, let anyone think you are … “sizing him up.”
  3. Never make eye contact with or smile at anyone.
  4. Before you sit down, check the stall for paper.
  5. Check your zipper before you exit.
  6. Don’t place anything on the floor if you can avoid it.

My wife questioned whether several of my items were truly avoidance behaviors, but the game got me thinking. A multi-stall public toilet is one of the most difficult places to negotiate properly with a gun hooked on your belt. It’s one of the most dangerous places you’ll visit because you don’t look at anyone — and it’s crowded. Plus, it’s often a mess, and you’re trying to get in, get done and get out as quickly as possible. (You’re thinking of the bathroom scene in Harrison Ford’s 1985 hit film Witness, I bet.)

Consequently, it’s worth thinking about.

Standing vs. Sitting

When I stand, I want the pistol I carry in a cross-draw holster to remain hidden. So I cheat with my left arm and press my coat or shirt in tight (hopefully not so tight that the shirt or coat becomes wet though). It’s when I must sit that the trouble begins.

Often, at a mall, I’m carrying packages that I don’t want to set on the floor — the floor invariably being gummy from who-knows-what. In the days when I carried a leather briefcase, I’d hang it on the coat hanger attached to the door … if the hook wasn’t broken. Then, you do what you have to do. But I’m not going to take a gun, holster and belt off and hang them on the door. Too much chance for error all around.

A black pistol creeping out of a black OWB holster attached to a brown leather western-style belt. The rig is lying on the tiled floor of a bathroom stall with the belt snaking up the side of the toilet.

Oh, please no! The most dangerous (and difficult to navigate) place you will visit this week may be the public toilet. (Rick Sapp photo)

And in all the fumbling — what with the zipper, wiping the seat and whatnot — I don’t want to lose control of the gun and have it slide out of the holster. There’s little likelihood that my striker-fired Walther will inadvertently fire, but taking that into consideration separates the pros from the wankers. You just have to be careful in turning around and following through with the paperwork. Does it seem that builders are making stalls smaller?

A Couple of Tips

So before using a public facility, I first try to empty my hands of packages and bags. My second coping strategy is to use a handicapped stall. Now, before you go hating on me, quoting from the Americans with Disabilities Act and giving me grief, think of the space in a handicapped stall. You’re not cramped into a narrow cube that makes turning around or moving with a heavy gun on your belt a problem. This, I suppose, will be up to you, but I haven’t yet had a wheelchair waiting on me. Insensitive? Maybe. But a tactical option nevertheless.

About Rick Sapp

After his stint in the U.S. Army, including time as an infantry platoon leader and working with West German KRIPO during the 1968 Soviet invasion, Rick Sapp returned home to earn a Ph.D. in social anthropology. Following his education from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Catholic University of America and the University of Florida, he moved to France for a year. Rick worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing, authoring more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.

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