This is a story about me getting the wrong end of the stick. And it goes like this:
Along the outside wall of my building, there is a long line of 5-litre water bottles. They are spaced about one metre apart. Here is a pic:
As you can see, there’s a sign on the wall. It says “For exclusive use of the fire brigade”.
When I first moved in, a friend of mine, also a foreigner who’d only recently arrived, threw her hands up in horror when she saw this. She had made the (seemingly) obvious link between the bottles and the sign.
Eeeeek!!! If there really was a fire, that’s how they were planning on putting it out…!
I seriously considered adding a few more bottles myself. To give us at least a fighting chance of drowning a firecracker on the rampage in a waste paper basket.
I must confess, I did take a rather morbid pleasure in advertising the ‘Spanish Economic Crisis Solution’ to house fires to friends and family who came to visit me. And it always got a far more evocative reaction than any of the two-thousand-year-old buildings I’d been dragging them to.
A few months later, however, my bubble of deplorable ignorance was finally burst by one of the local people I used to meet up with for the purpose of language exchange lessons. On this occasion, he was telling me about childhood pranks. One of the most popular, it turned out, was opening the water bottles, which people positioned alongside their walls to deter dogs and cats from marking their territories, leaning them against the front door, ringing the bell and running off.
Water bottles stop dogs pissing against the walls?? Who’s ever heard of that? As soon as I got home, I consulted the Great Oracle of Google.
Here is what I learned from a forum:
Andrea9: Water bottles are a Greek-Albanese tradition and they serve to discourage cats from peeing in the street.
Da Kine: You see the same thing in Hawaii, I was always told that it kept the cats out of the yard, something about the way the light reflected off of the water in the bottles scared them.
Pola: We use them in Italy, too. But I have strong doubts they work.
Jordi Guzman: In Spain (Barcelona) apparently it works.
Aine: Well guys, I have to say it works. It’s common knowledge in Devon (‘cats won’t walk near water’).
Holly9: Apparently this was originally a radio hoax for April Fools Day. It went right around the world. I’m in New Zealand, and you still see some people here with water bottles on their front lawn.
Krista: Great, so instead of just dog pee, now it’s dog pee and plastic water bottles everywhere. Just beautiful!
Lonny1: Sure, those bottles might stop dogs from peeing on the street, but they don’t discourage me from peeing on those same streets.
Scott2 If you leave a water bottle on top of your car in Argentina, it will cause the car to go away because it means it’s for sale.
I am so much wiser now. And just as baffled.
[…and as for the sign on the wall, in case anyone’s still wondering, there’s a dry riser inlet behind it for the fire brigade to hook up their equipment.]