quiet please

The Whistler

I went to the gym. In fact, I went twice – GO ME! The first time I went, I forgot my membership card. The second time, I forgot the pound coin you need for the locker, so spent the entire visit worrying that when I emerged from the pool, all my stuff would have been stolen and I’d have to go home in a wet bathing suit. As it happened, I only had to worry for about twenty minutes, though, because that’s how long I was in the pool. And the reason for that? It was The Whistler.

There’s a Whistler in almost every crowd, I find. You probably know one yourself. He (for it is almost always a he) is the person who finds it impossible to exist without emitting a loud, tuneless, shrill PEEP! every few seconds, regardless of how appropriate it may be to make that noise. And as far as I’m concerned? It is NEVER appropriate to make that noise. Never.

I can’t stand whistling. I know you’re all probably sitting there going, “Ah, but it’s so CHEERFUL!” It is not cheerful. It’s freaking annoying, is what it is, and no one will ever tell me different. I think it’s the shrillness of the noise that bothers me the most. That high pitched, totally tuneless PEEP! hurts my head in just the same way as nails scraping down a blackboard, say. Or someone rubbing their hands against a balloon. (WHY DO PEOPLE DO THAT?) And just when you think the torture is over, it comes again: PEEP! Gah.

The peeping started almost as soon as I got into the pool for my swim. This, in itself, had been something of a trial, because the swimming pool, it was PACKED. Where do all the people come from? We deliberately got a membership that only allows us to use the gym during the day (it’s cheaper) thinking it would almost certainly be quieter then, because most people would be at work. What we had forgotten, of course, was that most people don’t actually seem to work these days (How do they afford the membership? Surely they can’t ALL be self-employed, like us?). And that everywhere we go, we always take The Others with us.

Yes, The Others were out in force at the pool. There was one Other in each lane, so I selected the widest lane there and got in, being careful to try and stay at the opposite end from The Other, so that when he turned, I turned at the other end, and we passed each other in the middle. Within seconds, though, three more Others had appeared and – get this – EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM GOT INTO MY LANE. Why? Why do people do this? Sure, it was the widest lane, but now there were five of us in it. We were like some kind of half-assed synchronised swimming team, while the people in the OTHER lanes swam alone, in glorious seclusion, each with an entire lane at their disposal.

I ask again: WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS? I mean, what on earth would compel you, upon entering a swimming pool, to insert yourself into a lane that already had four other people in it, as opposed to a lane that only had one other person in it? And yes, my lane was considerably wider, but it was so overpopulated by this point that it was also considerably more cramped. And all the while, the dreaded PEEP! echoed around the room every few seconds.

I swam for as long as I could tolerate it, all of us moving as one giant mass, but finally I could take no more, so I got out of the pool and headed into the jacuzzi. As I slid into the warm water I looked back at the lane I had just vacated and saw that every single other person who had been in it was following me out. GOD. “If I jumped in the fire, would y’all jump too?” I asked bitterly. In my own head, natch.

I crossed my fingers and prayed that they wouldn’t all be following me into the jacuzzi. My prayers were answered. Well, sort of. My fellow swim-team members didn’t follow me into the jacuzzi, which, to my great joy, only contained one other person. Unfortunately, that person? Was The Whistler.

I sank down into the bubbles, anticipating a long, leisurely soak, alternating with short swims, until such a time as Terry finished doing MAN THINGS in the gym and was ready to leave.


I opened my eyes. Across the pool, The Whistler smiled at me benignly. I closed my eyes again.


I frowned.


I opened them. It was hard to catch The Whistler in the act, but there was no doubt that it was him. Every time I started to relax and enjoy myself, he would start up his tuneless, high-pitched peeping. And like nails down a blackboard, it very quickly drove me to the point of insanity. I sat it out until the jacuzzi finished its cycle and the bubbles died down. As I stood up to leave, though, The Whistler stood up too. YES! I could yet wrest some relaxation from this experience, I thought, preparing to sink back down again.

The Whistler walked to the button that operates the jacuzzi and pressed it. The bubbles started up again. So did The Whistler.

PEEP! he said as he sat back down.
“Screw this!” I said, as I got out of the pool and flounced into the changing rooms, the effect ruined only slightly by the factthat I had to come back for my towel. PEEP! said The Whistler as I picked it up. It was like Chinese Water Torture. I’m actually amazed that I survived to tell the tale.

Back in the changing room, I checked to make sure my clothes hadn’t been stolen, got dressed, then spent a few happy minutes playing with the GHD hair straighteners before retiring to the lounge to read Cosmo and wait for Terry. I only have to go through this another 12 times this month and I get a free towel. Free! Towel! WHY?!

I liked the hair straighteners, though.

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books by Amber Eve
  • I feel your pain. Because the woman next to me at work is CONSTANTLY popping her gum in this really annoying fashion that makes me want to stab myself in the eye.

    I hope she gets lock jaw or something. That much gum can't be good!

    October 15, 2007
  • Walking through town at the weekend we had the hummer near us – you know, that tuneless humming that wouldn't be so bad if only it were a real live tune. But the thing is this middle aged man had his wife with him – why didn't she say something (like 'shut up') or punch him in the mouth. Honestly, other people shouldn't be allowed out.

    October 15, 2007
  • Oh god. Others! Again! You poor dear! I hate them so.

    I don't get a gym membership for that very reason. I can't find one that doesn't have weirdo "others" in it. The whistling? Drives me near to insane. Whistling and making strange mouth sounds are the worst ever. I can't stand it when people lick their lips loudly and make clacking sounds. God. Makes me want to punch them right in the face.

    October 15, 2007
  • You sure that the whistling man wasn't the lifeguard maybe..?

    October 16, 2007
  • sonja


    I've never been more proud that I cant whisle haha

    May 29, 2009
  • Dimitra


    Your gym has GHD hair straighteners????????????

    January 15, 2014
  • Imagine living with a whistler. My roommate picked up the habit last October and had even begun humming. Constantly. I can even hear the noise from the farthest point possible through a closed door. I have left the apartment rather than sit there and endure the stupid hmm-hmm-hmm.

    June 4, 2014
  • Elizabeth


    At least human whistlers have to stop at some point- to take a breath or because their head has been forced underwater and they are bein drowned by someone screaming “FOR GOD’S SAKE STOP!!!!”

    One time I was on a bus and the driver LEFT THE MIKE ON.

    For the entire fortu minute journey I had to put up with this shrill, high-pitched drone and the occasional crackling distortion- I had a killer head ache by the end of the ride. (Next time that happens I am grabbing the wheel and driving us off the nearest cliff.)

    July 22, 2015