I was fortunate to be able to live with family friends this summer while I interned in Chicago. It was a great situation – when they were around, we’d hang out, but when they were gone, I had the place to myself and they had a de facto house-sitter. I was fine on my own, but the house was still big and creaky, so rather than blasting reruns of Celebrity Rehab to fill the space with noise, I decided to re-learn how to whistle.
I had braces for two and a half years. During that time I completely lost the ability to whistle – must have been something about the way the braces changed the shape of my lips. When the braces came off, I was too busy being psyched about my newly non-gappy teeth to care much about the lack of whistling in my life.
Anyway, in June, I decided to get back on the whistling bandwagon. I noticed it everywhere – everyone was whistling but me! It seemed like every song I heard had a crazy-cool whistling bit that I just couldn’t imitate.
It was time.
It was a good thing that I was alone during my self-instruction, because many of my early attempts at whistling were not exactly pleasing in the sonic sense.
I spent the whole summer learning to whistle again. When U2 played Soldier Field, I whistled guitar riffs and Bono wails in the shower. When I watched The Big Chill for the first time, I spent a week whistling Motown classics as I cooked dinner. When Paul McCartney played Wrigley Field, I whistled Beatles tunes on the way to the El. (By the beginning of August I was getting better, so I whistled publicly, hoping that someone would recognize the tunes and compliment me on my whistling ability. Nobody said anything, but it was good practice.)
My skills definitely improved over the months – I was making noises that sounded more like music and less like an unfortunate respiratory condition. For all of my practice, I’m still a lot better at the inhale-whistle than I am with the more traditional exhale-whistle. I don’t know why.
Towards the end of the summer, I had unwittingly conditioned myself to whistle whenever I was alone, and I was driving myself crazy. Enough with the whistling, I decided. I had regained the skill and I would have to learn to use it judiciously.
When I got to school, I had 10 days of RA training and whatnot before the rest of the students moved in to the dorm, so I spent lots of time alone in my empty wing of the dorm. As I sat in the lounge making my door decorations, I couldn’t help but notice how feeble my tinny computer speakers sounded. A good whistle resonates beautifully off cinderblock walls.