How To Secretly Signal To Your Bartender That You Feel Unsafe On A Date, Just In Case

The scariest date I ever went on was actually at a Starbucks, not at a bar. It started off perfectly normal, but about halfway through my macchiato, my date started acting strangely. He was fidgety and nervous and increasingly agitated. I just tried to play it cool and act normal, because I had made the rookie mistake of letting him pick me up for the date and he was my only ride home. (This was in the dark ages before Uber was a thing.) I was stuck, and I didn't know how to secretly signal to a bartender — or, in my case, the barista — for help, so I figured I'd just ride it out and then ghost this dude immediately after I got home. Cut to us speeding up a busy street in the wrong direction while he demanded to know if we would be going out again. All I could think about was how to get out of the situation and how I would never, ever let myself end up like this again. It was time to get proactive about my safety if I wanted to keep dating folks I met on dating apps.

When I first heard about ordering an "angel shot," the memory of that date immediately sprang to mind. I thought maybe if I had some kind of code to let the baristas know I felt unsafe, I would have been able to duck out gracefully before things got scary. If you're not familiar with the angel shot, it is an idea that went viral when a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida, posted a sign in the ladies room about their system of letting the bartender discretely know if you need help.

If you felt unsafe for any reason, you could simply order an "angel shot" and they would know you need help. There was also an additional code that could tell them what, specifically, they could do to help. If you ordered it "neat," it meant you wanted to be escorted to your car, ordering it "with ice" would be a signal to call you a ride, and finally, ordering it "with a lime" meant to call the police. Pretty brilliant, right? Unfortunately, it’s not very widespread. So, while ordering an angel shot is worth trying, you should also have a plan to make sure you have a discrete escape route on any date. Here are some ways to make that happen.

1Pregame With A Call To The Bar Beforehand

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When you set up a date with a stranger, you definitely don't want to let them surprise you with a meeting place. Make sure you know where you are going in advance. That way, you can let your friends know where you will be, but it also gives you a chance to do some pre-date investigating. What you want to do is call ahead and find out if they have a code or system of letting bartenders know you need help discreetly. If they don't, encourage them to create one.

2Pick A Location Where You Already Know The Code

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If you’re dating pretty regularly, chances are you have your favorite hot spots. Pick one where you know the code just in case things go sideways on your date. And if they don't have one, well, a regular like you has the clout to encourage them to start one, and to post it somewhere women will spot it, like the ladies restroom.

3Check The Restroom For Instructions

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Speaking of the women’s restroom, as cautious and careful as we all are occasionally, you’re going to end up somewhere unfamiliar. If you’re starting to get worried and not sure what to do, excuse yourself to the ladies room and check to see if they already have a code policy in place and posted in the bathroom.

4Install Personal Safety Apps On Your Phone

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Every woman who is dating — or, you know, existing in the world as female — should consider putting a personal safety app on their phone. Watch Over Me and bSafe are two free options that help you coordinate with friends and family to know where you are and that you are safe, and can be used to discreetly signal for help.

5When In Doubt, Just Go Ahead And Ask The Bartender For Help

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I know you want to play it cool, especially when you feel unsafe, but the option to simply tell the bartender that you need assistance is available. Sometimes, we put our own safety second to “being polite” or “not being rude.” Well, those days are over. If you feel unsafe, you have every right to be rude. Your personal well-being is more important than your date's sensitive feelings. So, speak up and tell the bartender you need them to call you a Lyft, or you need a bouncer to you walk you to your car.

Because at the end of the day, you don't owe your date anything. Your safety comes first. While it’s better to be proactive and plan ahead, never feel like you can’t speak up to protect yourself. Period. Point blank.

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