So I’m sitting in the sauna at the gym after a grueling 90 minute spinning class, trying to continue sweating out the day’s build-up of stress. I’m alone, my preference, and just as my body has adjusted to the heat, just as I am finally able to focus on my breath, my hyper-active, constantly on-alert brain finally slowing to a bearable hum, this hard-earned moment-of-zen is interrupted by the unmistakable creak of the sauna door opening. And in walks a cheery man about my age, maybe a little younger, whistling. I can’t place the tune, it may not even be a specific tune, but the general tone of the whistling, the tone that accompanies pretty much all whistling, is that of cheeriness, of carefree joy.
And inside, this enrages me.
I could feel my overheated skin bristling at this uninvited Jiminy Cricket wanna-be. I mean, sometimes I’ll be in the sauna and some millennial will come in with his iPhone and be playing some stupid multi-player shooter game with the sound on and I’ll silently seethe and wonder what is wrong with this guy, what is wrong with his generation, what is wrong with the world (it happens that fast, taking something small and singular and blowing it out of proportion to represent the entire universe: I call it my version of, “think local, act global”). But, now, I’d take the computerized rat-a-rat of Doom over THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD expressing himself via pursed lips.
You see, I’m not a whistler. First off, I don’t know how to whistle. I wish I could simply follow Lauren Bacall’s instructions, I mean, if anyone is going to get me to try it’s gonna be her, but I think I must have a defective part somewhere (I know, a screw loose, hardy har har), as every time I try, every time I put my lips together and blow, it just sounds like a bunch of hot air.
But now that I’m almost 50 years on this planet earth, I think that it’s not a matter of mechanics or practice, I think that there are whistlers and there are non-whistlers. Much like there are optimists and pessimists. Extroverts and introverts. Leno’s and Letterman’s. Leno probably is a great whistler. I mean, that chin must really make him a top echelon whistler.
Part of me was glad that I couldn’t make out a distinct tune from the whistler, that he didn’t trigger an ear worm. He could have easily been whistling something that would have taken days to work its way through my system. Something like “Eye of the Tiger” or “Moves Like Jagger.” Or even a song that I initially enjoyed like Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.”
A lot depends on when you initially discover a song that eventually becomes exceedingly popular. Whether you develop a fondness for it before it spreads like an aural wildfire or if you, like the majority of the world, are subjected to it without control, as it plays seemingly every 20 minutes on the radio and at the gym. I, thankfully, had already been a fan of PB&J (love that this is their acronym), back when they were a little bit crunchy, before they became sugary and smooth. I was a fan of them before their 2006 (holy crap, it’s been 10 years since that album?!) breakthrough, Writer’s Block. I say this not to brag, not to show off my indie cred, but to explain that I was one of the few who had heard “Young Folks” before the songs’ iconic whistling wormed its way into your and most everyone under 40’s eardrums.
Maybe it was the fact that I could never whistle along to the song; maybe I had simply moved on from a band that had moved on from me, that didn’t know how to write for both the extroverts and the introverts, the optimists and the pessimists; maybe there is just so much good music out there that it’s only natural for some artists to fall by the wayside as the years pass by.
Maybe I ought to give whistling another shot. I mean, that guy in the sauna seemed so free of angst and worry, so unconcerned about what anyone else thought of him or his methods of expression. How wonderful it must feel to purse your lips together and blow and let your inner mouth trumpet songs spew forth.
Nah, I’m a drummer. I’ll stick to beating things with my hands and sticks. That’s who I am, that’s how I’ll express myself. I’m not a whistler and that’s OK.