People Forced To Use A Bar’s “Safe Word” To Escape Danger Share What Happened
Dating should be fun, but sometimes it can be a total nightmare.
Anyone who has spent time at bars can attest to the fact that there’s always that one person who is a little too handsy or can’t take a hint. The behavior can be as simple as an excessive conversation to something much more nefarious.
Safety should always come first. It’s helpful to have an exit strategy in case things start to go awry. Fortunately, some bars aim to aid their patrons’ safety by establishing “safe words.” Customers can use them to signal to the staff that they need help getting out of a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. Even bars that don’t have official safe words still have a plan of action ready.
Read on to hear from some of the internet users who have had experience with this.
#1 Delighted To Detain
The bar staff called 911 once after they bounced a guy who was creeping out a woman. He stood outside the bar and flat-out said he was waiting for her to come out. He started following her and told people they were together. I literally had to stand beside him while this poor girl and her friends got into the car.
I gave the taxi driver the address to a nearby police station instead of the girl’s real address, and he seemed to get the hint. The guy tried to complain later that we had “unlawfully detained” him… I mean… Yeah, basically that’s what we did. He had no concept of personal space. I still don’t know what he was thinking.
#2 Saved By Sadie
At the bar I worked at, you could come to the bar, say, “Hey, does Sadie still work here?” Then we knew to get you out quietly. We’d escort you through the back or have security distract the guy while we got a cab. Sometimes, it’s easier to cut the guy off. More often than not, after we get the person out, the dude would continue to creep on other girls.
#3 The Elusive Jack Anderson
I used to work at a tavern when I was in my late teens. We had a sign in the women’s washroom that told girls who were in trouble to ask: “Is Jack Anderson is working tonight?” That was a signal that meant we would escort them out through the kitchens to the car or taxi. It happened so frequently that regular drinkers (who were fine for the most part) starting asking who Jack Anderson was as they’d never seen him. Usually, they were too tipsy to remember.
#4 Thumbs Up Trick
After working as a bartender and bouncer for the past couple of years, I usually try to watch for the body language of people at the bar. If it looks like someone needs a quick escape, I’ll approach and pretend I’m an old friend. If they actually don’t need help, I can excuse myself by saying I mistook them for someone else.
Either that or I’ll try to position myself behind the questionable party and give a thumbs-up as a sort of, “You good?”
#5 Supposed-Boyfriend Be Gone
This is a relatively new thing, but us girls have been doing some form of it for a long time. Back when I was a bartender, I noticed a girl stumble into the pool table. She was crying and clearly very intoxicated. I went over to ask if she was okay, and some guy I hadn’t seen her with all night jumps up and says, “I’m her boyfriend, I’ve got her.”
Excuse me, no you do not. We got her to calm down and give us her phone to call her roommate so someone safe could take her home. I’ll always love my boss from that bar because he threw that creep out, physically. We saw her again another night. She didn’t have a boyfriend or remember anything from that night.
#6 All Set With The Ex
This recently happened to me. I met up with an ex after roughly five years of not seeing him. He seemed way off when I arrived at the bar. He forgot his wallet (unsurprisingly) so I bought the first round of beers. I immediately closed the tab because I wasn’t expecting to pay for him and didn’t want him taking advantage of me.
When I excused myself to the restroom, I was already regretting the evening. When I stepped back out, he was there, by the door. He had been standing there the entire time. Every alarm in my body went off, but I just acted annoyed and questioned him. He mumbled something and walked over to a pinball machine. He never played; just looked at it for a solid 10 minutes.
This gave me enough time to call the bartender over and ask: “Girl to girl, this dude’s on something, right?” She agreed and asked me if I felt safe. I obviously didn’t, so she let me exit through the back door and even had another staff member walk me to my car. Not sure if anything would have happened, but I’m really glad that she was so cool about it.
#7 Heroic Students
I had a creep corner me in a bar once. He tried to stroke my thigh. Mind you, this was a dude I’d never met before. He just came up and said: “Hey sis, I’ve been looking all over for you.” He put his arm around me, then started to walk me out. Thankfully, a group of college students saw me clearly uncomfortable and stepped in before he led me out the door.
#8 Lady To The Rescue
I was at a bar with a couple of buddies and there were these two girls sitting in front of us. None of us were interested in them, but they still tried to chat us up. When they asked what we did for a living, I said I was a garbage man, hoping that alone would be enough to make them disinterested. But, unfortunately, it didn’t work.
I must have been looking around the bar with eyes that said “Get me the heck out of here” because this nice girl who I never met came by and pretended to be an old friend. She gave me a great big hug, which of course I thanked her for. She saw that I was super uncomfortable and needed rescuing, so she saved me.
I repaid her kindness with drinks and we met up later on for a movie. Since the,n I’ve been more aware of the signs that someone needs help.
#9 A Safeword For Every Order
I met my girlfriend of five months on a Bumble date at a brewery in Connecticut. She arrived before I did and unbeknownst to me, she had made a pact with two female bartenders. She told them that if she ordered a certain brand of scotch neat, that meant she felt uncomfortable but not scared. If she ordered it on the rocks, that meant she’d have someone call the bar for her to go.
Lastly, if she ordered it double, that meant they needed to escort her to the car. No matter how she felt, there was a code involved. One of the bartenders came over to ask if she’d like that drink now. She kindly declined. We’ve been dating for five months now and have never been better. When she told me about this code system, I was so proud of her.
#10 Lucy’s Sobriety Special
The bar I go to regularly doesn’t have a “safe word,” but we do have a drink called the “Lucy Special.” If you are in a situation where men are 1) trying to buy you a lot of drinks, 2) making you feel uncomfortable, or 3) trying to get you tipsier than you already are, then you order the “Lucy Special.” It’s a glass of ice, soda water, and crushed limes.
I guess you might call this a “safe drink,” but I don’t think it’s exactly the same thing. My interpretation of a “safe drink” was that the drink name was the safe word itself, which you could use to get you out of a situation. The purpose of a “safe drink,” in contrast, is to make it seem like you are drinking when you are still sober. But yes, they both keep you safe!
#11 Saved By The Scarf
I don’t know about safe word drinks, but once in my early twenties, I went on a date with a guy who I didn’t know well. He seemed fairly normal, but about two drinks in, he started dropping some real creep vibes. He started saying that he loved how young I looked, and at one point, he literally said, “You look barely old enough to have your period.”
YIKES. I make eye contact with the bartender behind me and mouthed, “Help.” She came right over and asked if I had been in recently because there was a scarf in lost and found that might belong to me. I walked with her to an employee room and explained the situation. She waited with me while the bouncer threw him out. Later, that same bouncer walked me to my car.
#12 A Protective Product
Not a bar, but a grocery store I used to work for had a safe word. The store did a lot of sponsorship, charities, and community outreach. In particular, it was a partner of a women’s advocacy group. There was a product in the store that was never ever put on sale so that if an employee was asked what the sale price on that item was, then one employee would distract the guy with customer service while she was “shown” to the product she was looking for (i.e., brought to the store office by way of the backroom).
#13 The Manhattan Mix-up
I ordered a Manhattan. The bartender told me I had a call at the phone by the end of the bar. I went over and looked around for a phone, but couldn’t find one. He then asked me if I needed a cab, saying that I could wait out back for it to arrive. I had no idea what was going on until, after a few exchanges of quizzical looks, he explained that “Manhattan” is the bar’s safe drink. I told him I really just wanted a Manhattan. He said I was the first person in years to have ordered one at that bar.
#14 Rescue Doctors
I never saw a sign at a bar, but I did see one at a doctor’s office. It was a sign with tear-off slips that you could take to the receptionist if you were in trouble. Upon receiving the slip, the receptionist would know immediately what was going on and proceed with the protocol, which was to escort you to a safe room and keep you there while the authorities were contacted.
#15 The Hotel Hero
I was at a hotel bar, talking to a guy. At some point in the night, I started feeling uncomfortable because he got really tipsy and started trying to touch me. A girl from across the bar spotted what was happening and she pulled me away from the creep. She asked me if I was okay and I told her I wasn’t, so she led me to the elevator so she could bring me back to my room.
The tipsy man saw us leaving and ran to catch up to us. We tried to play it cool by asking him what floor he was headed to. He said the tenth floor, which was the same floor as my room. The girl then pressed a different floor number and we got off there instead. After waiting a few minutes, we went to the tenth floor to see if he was still in the hallway. It was clear, so I went back to my room.
#16 Better Safe Than Sorry
One time, I have had bar staff follow me into the bathroom and discreetly ask me if everything was okay. Everything was okay—I was there with my boyfriend, but I wasn’t feeling too well so I think I looked anxious and uncomfortable. He’s a lot older than me, so people always make assumptions. That, along with my demeanor, probably made them concerned.
Honestly, I appreciated them picking up on it and asking. Even though everything was okay, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
#17 A Necessary Non-Ticket Zone
It wasn’t a bar, but my first college. I worked late at the coffee shop and had theater practice until 11 p.m. I parked behind the school by the theater backstage door and got a parking ticket. The cop came by and asked why I parked there. I told him it felt safer and he told me not to worry. For the rest of the semester, I parked there when I need to close.
#18 When Size Is On Your Side
I’ve had this happen multiple times. A girl will run up and hug me or act as if they knew me, and immediately I’ll notice a creepy dude behind her. I’ll play along for her benefit until the dude leaves. I’m guessing it’s because I’m a bigger guy. I even had a girl walk up and kiss me, then pull me in for a hug, saying: “Please play along, the kiss was your thank you.”
I thought to myself, the dude must have been a real creep for her to do something that extreme.
#19 Quite The Pushover
I experienced a much more direct approach at a bar in a small Italian town with my sister. While she was ordering in Italian, a creepy older man moved in close and started asking me if I was cold. He put his hands all over me and then leaned in to kiss me. Before my sister and I could do anything, the bartender leaned over the bar and just pushed his head away from mine. It was so forceful that he fell over.
Then, three guys in the bar started screaming at the creepy man and hustled him out the door. Ah, Italy.
#20 Protecting Her Peace (And Drink)
I had to order a “safe drink” because some guy was trying to start a fight with me. I wouldn’t let him know the names of the girls I was out with, so he got really upset. God bless the GIGANTIC guy behind the bar who came out and stood next to me for like, a solid half hour just so I could enjoy the rest of my night in peace.
#21 On To Plan B
A sign in the bathroom said to ask for Angela at the bar, so I did. The bar staff had no idea what I was talking about. I had to handle that one on my own.
#22 ID-ing For More Than Age
In a previous life, I was a weekend bartender in a hole-in-the-wall bar. Every wall and stall in the ladies room has a “Help me now” drink name. When a female requests this drink, the staff stalls to give time for authorities to come by. It also lets us better ID the male in question. The system has helped several women get out of uncomfortable situations over the years.
#23 Lost And Saved
I work in a bar and we had a situation once. We don’t have a safe word, but rather a phone number that you can call (from the toilet, etc). A girl called the number one night and we asked her if she could come to the lost and found to check if something we found belonged to her. We called her a cab and told the guy that we needed his table for a reservation.
#24 Bartenders Are Your Friend
Career barkeep here. Always trust your bartenders. We will take care of you. We know exactly what is going on in our bar. Never hesitate to send a signal of any kind to your bartender if you need assistance. Even if there is no procedure in place, try to call our attention. Always. Always speak up in some way. It is never too much of a hassle.
#25 Not Sorry For The Concern
We don’t have a safe drink at our bar, but one time I was pretty skeeved seeing a pretty tipsy girl with a man who was completely sober. She got up to get something and I went to help her. I asked if she was okay and she got mad because the man she was with was actually her husband who did not drink. Despite her frustration, I’m glad I still checked up on her.
That’s the only time I didn’t have someone appreciate the gesture. But usually, if I see a weird situation I try my best to help out. I also try to stay vigilant of people’s hands, just to make sure they aren’t trying to pull any funny stuff with other people’s drinks. If someone looks very messed up after a drink, I will make that person goes home separately.
#26 No Barbicide For The Bride
During my first in-person meeting with a woman who I had been emailing on Match.com, she informed me that she gave the bartender a “safe word” to watch for. If she ordered a “Barbicide,” that meant the bartender somehow had to get her out of the date. Thankfully, she never ordered a “Barbicide” during our date. We ended up dating afterward and we are now happily married.
#27 A Smooth Exit
An obnoxiously tipsy and handsy date ordered the safeword drink, and the bartender said, “Were you looking for the restrooms? I can show you to the one in the back.”
#28 Angel At Your Service
Bartender here! An “Angel Shot” is the generally accepted safe drink at my bar. Every staff member knows of it.. Usually, if someone needs help, a staff member will come to the rescue. If someone needs us to call an Uber for them, we will do it (and even cover the charge in some cases). We also have a back exit, too.
#29 Bailing Through The Bill
One time, my friend and I were getting harassed by some guys. As we were trying to get them to leave us alone, the bartender gave me a bill. I thought was weird, but then I looked more closely at it and it read: “If those guys don’t stop, I’d be happy to ask them to leave. Just say the word.” I’ll never forget that; it was such a noble gesture.
#30 Need More Mark
Almost two years ago, I was out alone at a bar in a city I was visiting on a work trip. Random groups of guys kept coming up to me, trying to buy me drinks. Despite me telling them no or that I was waiting for a friend, they persisted. Thanks, Mark for being such an attentive bartender and coming over to ask if I was good.
I felt safe all night and you even made sure I got into my Uber all right. The world needs more people like you.
#31 A Love Story For The Books
A creepy guy tried hitting on me while I was vacationing in England. I was staying across the street and the pub was closing. I signaled to the bartender that I needed help getting out of my predicament. The owner took creep out back to show him something in the Biergarten and I bolted. A year later, I married the bartender.
#32 Dancing The Creep Away
I once saw two girls getting creeped out by a guy on the dance floor. He wouldn’t stop hitting on them and I could tell that they were really uncomfortable. So I just stepped in, pretending to be gay, and started creeping on him. I gave him a taste of his own medicine. One or two sensual dance moves later, he fled the dance floor never to be seen again.
We all had a good laugh about the look on his face and the girls were really grateful.
#33 Shooting H2O
After a man wouldn’t stop telling me to drink a shot he ordered for me, the bartender stealthily dumped it out and filled it with water without him seeing.
#34 Breaking Free
There’s a venue in my city has a very smart version of a safe word. The code phrase is: “There’s broken glass in the bathroom.” That’s because 1) it’s very likely that a woman will excuse herself to use the restroom as an excuse to avoid a jerk, and b) the bartender can say, “Show me where,” then escort her out without it being obvious what the dealio is.
#35 Postpartum Pineapple Juice
My wife is a physician and said this also applies in a situation after someone has had a baby. You can order a “pineapple juice,” and that means you want the medical staff to clear the room of all visitors.
#36 Missing In The Kitchen
I used to work in a bar and grill as a prep cook when I was 18. We literally had one girl hide in the kitchen behind the meat slicer because the guy she was with in the bar was a total creep. Like, he kept poking her sides and scooting closer to her when she scooted away. I worked there for three months and after that day she’d visit every couple of weeks say hi to me. I still Snap her from time to time.
#37 Uber Underway
Uber driver here. I get several of these calls, mostly from college kids. I get the ping, go pick up the person, and get a nice tip from the bartender.
#38 Cougar On The Hunt
I didn’t use a safe word, but a waitress chased off a gross old lady who wouldn’t stop saying very inappropriate stuff to me. After they got her away from me, they told me I should get out while she was distracted. I was about 19, and this woman had to be in her mid-40s. She obviously had a bit too much to drink.
#39 A Literal Pass
A female friend came up to me at a bar. Some tipsy dude was really trying to get at her. I couldn’t blame him; she was an attractive girl, but how he was acting was so cringeworthy. I quickly tapped his shoulder and said, “We’re going to the bar across the street.” Then, I walked out, pretending to actually leave. I grabbed a girl I knew by the door and dipped to the opposite direction.
The tipsy dude walked out and went right past us. Well played if I must say. High fives and laughs all around.
#40 Asking For Angela
I had to use a bar’s safe word when I was on a date off Tinder. We met up and he had already gotten me a drink (a shot of something clear). Then, he said to me that I should take it so he could take me somewhere more fun. I wasn’t comfortable, so I excused myself to the bathroom and saw a poster that said to ask for Angela at the bar if you’re ever in an uncomfortable situation.
This definitely felt like an uncomfortable situation, so I went to the bar and asked for Angela. Immediately, the bartender was playing along, saying, “Oh yeah, she’s working in the kitchen tonight.” He got me a taxi and walked me out the back door to make sure I got there without any hassle. Never saw the creepy guy again.
#41 Safety In Women
I’ve had to help a girl escape the clutches of a creepy date before. I was at a local bar with a bunch of friends and out of nowhere, a girl walked over, sat on my lap, and between a teeth-clenched smile just said: “Pretend to know me.” I laughed and loudly said, “Hey you! Where’d you wander off to?” Thankfully my friends picked up on it…
Within ten seconds, my female friends were chatting with her and standing between her and the guy she wanted to get away from. I asked her after what about me made her know I was a safe person to turn to and she said, “Because you’re here with a bunch of women. In all honesty, I thought you were gay… No offense or anything.”
#42 The Ladies Room Lurkers
We had a rotating group of guys that would post up right by the ladies room every Friday and Saturday, just so every girl in the bar had to walk by them at some point. I loved throwing those guys out.
#43 Within Earshot
If you are uncomfortable in a bar, just get in earshot of the bartender or the bouncer and say, “You’re making me uncomfortable.” Be direct and if the guy gives you any attention after that, he can expect to get tossed.
#44 From Hero To Husband
I was at a bar and a woman grabbed my arm as I was coming out of the bathroom. I quickly realized what was going on as she was trying to escape an uncomfortable situation with a creepy guy who clearly had boundary issues. I played along for the time it took for the creepy guy to wander away. The girl bought me a drink in appreciation. One thing led to another, and we eventually got married. It’s been 21 years.
#45 Important PSA
PSA to the ladies: I’m a guy who has worked 20 years as a bartender, club manager, and security personnel. We LIVE for taking out jerks. If you ever are having an issue with a guy, date or not, please let anyone there know and I bet they would be thrilled to make the jerk go away. When I used to hear about incidents in the club where a patron was harassed, I always wish knew what was going on. The staff will usually gladly step in.