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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

Pipe Down

Sir, I really don't want to listen your whistling. I really don't. I understand that your heart is so happy that you feel inspired to express it to the world with your ear-piercing emissions of airy flutiness. I understand you're feeling jaunty and peppy and gay, that you’ve got the world on a string, that there’s a shine on your shoes and a melody in your heart. But please: refrain from the refrain. Look, none of us wants to tell you this directly, lest we take the wind out of your sails, but I can assure you that I speak for the entire world and all its citizens when I say—and I mean this in the kindest way possible—put a sock in it.

Whistling is one of those indulgences that are far more enjoyable for the participant than for the listener. If you've ever met a devotee of the alleged comedy group Monty Python, you know the type of indulgence to which I refer. Monty Python fans, without exception, not only have fond memories of the show but have also memorized every word of every sketch. And unsatisfied with merely telling you about their favorite ones, they insist on reenacting them, playing all the characters, reciting the dialogue, word for word, in a screechy English accent, much to their own delight. They do so with a glee that assumes their tastes are shared, ignoring the blank looks, eye rolls, grumbles, and obvious attempts to end the agony with hints like "Yes . . . very funny . . . Yep. That was a good one, all right. I get it . . . " These fans stubbornly believe that each captive audience is thrilled and grateful for the one-man recreation (sans props, costumes, settings, or laugh track) of these lengthy golden comedic gems. It’s painful. Even if I liked Monty Python (big shocker: I don’t), I’d prefer to see their work performed by them, rather than by one drunken idiot at a party I wish I hadn’t attended.

That's what whistling is like.

In addition to savoring their own merriment, whistlers seem to think they're also brightening everyone else’s day, lifting people's spirits with their shrill piping. And if anyone were to ask them to stop, I imagine they’d respond with a pitying smile and say, “Aw, why so blue? Don’t you see that each day is full of wonder?” So it may be that gritting our teeth and tolerating the tuneful torture is the lesser annoyance.

Still, why oh why must these little music recitals happen in elevators, or on buses, or in line at the airport, where there’s no escape? Is the joy just too much to contain until later? Please, try harder. And if you must whistle, find an open field somewhere. Stand under a freeway overpass. Visit the Swiss Alps. Or whistle around your house. Get it all out of your happy-go-lucky system before you go out in public.

By the way, there’s nothing to be that happy about. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, everything is terrible and on the decline, and most of us are in a very bad mood most of the time. If we all went around vocalizing our emotional states in public, you’d find me howling to the heavens in frustration or cursing like a sailor at the top of my lungs. Now you don’t want to hear that while riding an elevator, do you? So let’s make a deal: how about we both restrain ourselves, and if you’re that damned merry, keep it to yourself.

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