Here he comes. Yes, he is coming. I don’t see him. I hear him. From afar. He’s whistling, oh-so carefree, head swaying, body grooving. And he’s doing it loudly and without a whit of shame or self-consciousness. Notes swirling from his pursed lips for all to hear. You just want to smack him.
This middle-aged guy, this oblivious songbird, comes to the cafe almost every time I’m there, which is a lot. He sports sunglasses, a down vest, chinos. And he strolls around whistling, sometimes to a song of his choosing, often to whatever is playing on the cafe stereo. Tweetle-lee-dee …
Why am I so vexed by a man who whistles merrily about a coffee shop? Whistling, it’s said, is a symptom of happiness. One site muses: “Are whistlers so insanely happy that they have some overly elevated level of joy? So much so that it bubbles up and spills out in the form of air molecules passing over the tongue and through their lips?”
If so, am I just madly envious of this fellow’s happy mien? His ability for unfettered glee to pour out and tweetle in everyone’s eardrums unbidden? He’s not a bad whistler. He’s actually fairly adroit, a mini jazz-flute maestro vamping on his facial wind instrument.
No, I am not envious. I have no idea if he’s inflated with uncontainable ecstasy, though he appears pretty content and confident with his hands-in-pocket swagger. It’s that his music is like a yappy-dog bark, or the proverbial nails on a chalkboard. I roll my eyes whenever he passes. I think he knows this and turns up the volume. Toot-teetly-do-da …
Yet I give him license. Whistling Willie, I’m convinced, is simply indulging a bad habit. His tuneful penchant is pure reflex, like the drummer who instinctually taps the table with his fingers. We all have tics, mannerisms and foibles, even if they’re not as piercing and public as full-throated whistling. The dude’s just doing his thing.
The lip-doodling is pretty damn distracting (otherwise I wouldn’t be grousing) when I’m trying to read and write. “If you’re an anti-whistler type, short of duct tape, how can you keep your focus when Tweety Bird starts up?” asks the above web site, Screenflex (a portable room divider company!).
There are no answers. There is only discipline. Tune out the tunesmith. But it’s not just the “music” that kills me. It’s the brazen indifference to his fellow folks, inflicting, without a flinch, his own song list on strangers, like the lunk who hoists a blaring boom-box strutting down the street for all to hear, no matter individual taste and basic social decorum. It’s the principle.
My whistler, my personal Bobby McFerrin, who’s probably a swell human being, despite the cloud of patchouli cologne he resides in, just needs a touch of self-awareness to wake him up — perhaps an actual whistleblower to call him out, bawl him out, and slip a cork into that irksome “O” on his face.