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Mr. Alice:

I walk my dogs., A lot. Which takes me around a lot of different neighborhoods. On my walks I see, o occasion (not particularly commonly, but enough to make me wonder WTF??) a sealed bottle or jar of clear liquid, presumably water, placed in people's yards, usually but not exclusively near a tree trunk. Sometimes there are as many as three or four in what clearly must be strategic points throughout the yard. They never seem to move or to be less empty (they are invariably full, or very near to being full). Sometimes they are in full sunlight, sometimes in shade. I have seen them on grass, in dirt, under palm trees, under pine trees. Are they some sort of bizarre offering to erstwhile horticultural spirits? A shabby DIY ant trap? Or just really cool yard d�cor?

-- Jason in Kensington

Just when you think the world has survived one more blockhead urban legend, it pops up again. This one was all the rage 30 years ago. Could hardly take a step in any suburban nabe without tripping on a lawn full of water bottles. It took maybe 15 years for people to figure out the things were useless, and for 10 years or so we've been relatively bottle free. But apparently the phenomenon has now mutated from urban legend to ancient wisdom. The elves have seen a suspicious number of jugs sprouting from the landscape lately; obviously a new generation of suckers has taken up the cause.

But here's a question for Jason. Do you notice your dogs cringing in fear as they pass these decorated lawns? No? Not surprised. More likely they're snickering. So for you newbies just catching up with the water bottles, people who put them on their lawns believe they will keep dogs (and perhaps cats, too) from pooping on the grass. Investigators of all legends urban have collected a variety of explanations for how this is supposed to work (the reflections in the water scares them, the jugs scare them, they smell funny to them�), none of which hold much water. Many people have some pretty funny stories about how the bottles become targets for pooping pooches, not objects of fear. The phenomenon pops up around the globe, mostly in English-speaking countries; maybe the idea just sounds too preposterous when translated into French or Greek and they never fell for it. And we'll store this answer away for future reference, 30 years from now, when lawn water bottles are new again and the questions flow in.

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