Friday, March 23, 2012


Big orange bottles of butano (butane) are common in Spain.  In the cities they decorate balconies, where the extras are kept.  In the suburbs they line streets on the days when the butano trucks come by. 

When we moved into our apartment in Barcelona, butano was our fuel for the stove and the hot water heater.   The bottles are metal, about two feet high, and weigh a ton.  In Barcelona the butano sellers would come walking down the street wheeling a handcart stacked with the bottles that they would hit with a metal bar so that you could hear them coming.  This distinctive sound made a significant racket allowing you time to get to your balcony and call down if you wanted them to stop so that you could buy.  They would bring your bottle to your apartment, you paid in cash, and they would take the empty bottle away.  Everyone had at least two, one in use and the other to hook up when the first went empty.  The sellers (mostly Pakistanis) would pass several times a week.  All the buildings in my neighborhood were old and few, if any, had elevators.  Thank God for this service because the bottles are very heavy and there would be no way an older person could carry one up the stairs.

Here where I live, only people walking their dogs ever walk past and the guy who sells butano (a Catalan) comes by truck -- a large truck carrying over a hundred bottles.  In my neighborhood, the butano truck comes once a week, on Friday afternoons, any time between 12:30 and 4.  This means that if you need butano, you need to stay home Fridays starting at midday or you might miss the truck.  Unfortunately, the truck didn’t come at all one recent Friday.  In this house I use butano only for the stove as the hot water heater is electric so it will be about six months before I have to buy another bottle.  If I used butano for hot water and maybe my heating too, I’d be worried about not having a full extra bottle.  As it was, the truck came the following week.  The regular driver had been off that other week and his replacement was supposed to cover his route.    

Our driver doesn’t bang on bottles, nor does he announce his imminent arrival with music or sound effects.  Here, you leave your empty bottle on the sidewalk in front of your house as your signal that you need service.  The driver will honk as he pulls up and you go running out to meet him.  He is always nice enough to bring the bottle into the house and stash it where I indicate.  There is only one step into the house, but it would still be very difficult for me to bring the bottle in on my own.  So I am happy for the friendly service and the functional system.  Even so, I look forward to the day when I live in an apartment hooked up to city gas and no longer have to deal with colorful bottles or delivery trucks that don’t show up when the regular driver is being replaced.


  1. It is a pity that you sold the house, now that finally the Ametlla all people will have natural gas service to your home.

    (no sé si ho he escrit prou bé, Dvora) :-\

  2. Trini, gas service is coming to the village, but not to Tres Cales. Anyway, it isn't worth my staying here to wait for it!!!