Anti-climb paint

Just as I was about to hit the sack, I checked up on House of Hot Sauce, my friend Sean Monkman’s blog. I know both him and his wife Keitha from our days at Queen’s University, and they’ve recently moved to Scotland. It’s one of those “let’s uproot and move somewhere different while we’re still young and not tied down to anything” things of which I wholeheartedly approve. The blog, aside from being an outlet for Sean’s wonderful creativity and spot-on pronouncements about alt-rock, is also an easy way for his friends back here in Accordion City to keep up with how he and Keitha are doing.

In his entry on New Year’s Eve, he wrote about these signs, which appeared on bus shelters all over Edinburgh before the celebrations began:

Photo: Sign on Edinburgh bus shelter that reads 'Keep Off! Anti-climb paint applied to shelter roof'.

Sean — who’s an engineer by training — wondered if such a thing as “Anti-climb paint” existed, or if it was clever bit of social engineering meant to keep partygoers from climbing on top of the shelters and either wrecking them or injuring themselves. It doesn’t seem real; it sounds more like some kind of invention from the world of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash or the Disneyland-of-the-future in Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

(An aside about paint and the Magic Kingdom: when Cory and I went to Disneyland back in 2001, he told me that they paint structures such as construction walls and other things they want you to ignore a special colour called “Go Away Green”. It’s a colour that blends into the background of just about any landscape setting. It’s the next best thing to setting up one of Douglas Adams’ “Somebody Else’s Problem” fields.)

A little Googling gave me the answer — anti-climb paint actually exists! Oddly enough, just about every result was a site either based in or writing about the UK. Here’s a snippet from Decorating Direct, a UK-based firm who had the number one result:

Anti-Climb Paint is a thick, non-drying coating for parapets, downcomers, pipes, window sills, fencing and walls etc. It acts as an extremely effective deterrent to would be intruders and burglars by making surfaces virtually unclimable, whilst marking intruders hands and clothing.

The stuff is made with petroleum jelly, and isn’t supposed to dry completely for years. It’s Vaseline for buildings! It combines the worst of slippery (to prevent climbing) and sticky (to clearly mark you as the intruder).

If that weren’t enough of a security measure, certain kinds of anti-climb paint, such as Andura’s, also contain fluorescent pigments and a “secret trace element” to “enable Law Enforcement Agencies to link suspects and clothing to the scene of the crime.”

It strikes me as the perfect gift for the personality type who’s into both Martha Stewart and perimeter defense.

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