Friday, September 5, 2008

The Whistle

When I first moved into my house, a good Mexican friend would often come by for a visit. I was always a little dismayed at how he announced his presence - he would stand out in the street and whistle for me, like I was a dog. Hey, I have a name, and I have a door - why not call me, or just knock?

Although offended by the whistle, I never mentioned it - I mostly ignored it. I figured he would get the message that I was not going to answer the door until he called me properly by name, which he sometimes did. Or he would honk the golf cart horn. In any case, victory was mine, I would not be whistled to.

Being the clever foreigner that I am, I bought a doorbell - one of those wireless gadgets. But I didn't want just anyone ringing my bell, so I hid the doorbell on the inside of the gate. I told friends where to find the button in case they dropped by unexpectedly. But most of my friends were tourists - only here a couple of times a year - and they did not use my hidden doorbell, they forgot I had a doorbell. Neither did they whistle, they simply came up to the door and announced their presence. Or in one instance, sat on the front porch visiting with each other while we rested upstairs awaiting their arrival (they didn't hear us, we didn't hear them).

The doorbell didn't last long. First, nobody used it and second, the salt air corroded the battery in no time flat. So much for the 'clever foreigner'.

Besides the whistle, another way Mexicans announce their presence is to stand in the street and call "Buenos" - over and over. And over. I once timed someone trying to get the attention of my neighbor - he stood out at the post for at least 5 minutes, calling "Buenos" every few seconds. Sometimes it was a little louder, sometimes a little softer, like he was embarrassed. But he persisted, and eventually my neighbor gave in and came out and talked to him. I sort of dread the "Buenos", because in my experience, it is usually someone I don't know who wants to sell me something. I often don't respond to the "Buenos" people and usually the barking dogs get them going on their way.

One more way the Mexicans get my attention is by tooting the horn on their mopeds, or honking the horn on the golf cart (which is a bicycle horn and quite noisy). Usually the people doing this type of honking are workers or delivery people - letting you know they've arrived. Occasionally, though, it is just someone giving the horn a few squeezes as they pass by, often the garbage men. They don't want anything, they are just having fun.

After spending a lot more time here, I now know that the whistle is not offensive and is a polite way of letting someone know you are there without making a lot of disruptive noise. I've learned that a correct response to someone whistling in the street is to whistle back in acknowledgement. The beauty of the whistle is that it blends in with the chirping of the birds, it is non-intrusive, and is much nicer than standing in the street bellowing the name of someone. Only problem is, I have occasionally mistaken the chirping of birds for someone looking for me in the street. When I look, there's nobody there - I actually think we have blackbirds that have learned the whistle. Since childhood I've tried to whistle, but never mastered it - all that comes out is soft air that tickles my lips. I think I need to recruit a blackbird.


Anonymous said...

This is a great story...Sue you were Born To Blog (there's a t-shirt slogan for ya)


IslaZina said...

Now isn't it nice to be in Mexico? In Cleveland, for example, the "famous whistle" was one street thugs used to warn those up the street that a cop car was coming!
Alas, I did succeed in training several friends to use my doorbell. Now, Martin at Osorio's is trying to make it work again after two years of good service.
Buenos on a Saturday morning means the Jehovah's witnesses, don't forget.
Yep, another nail on the head. Listen for the wolf whistles. They are loros in training!

Sue said...

You're right, there are more meanings to "the whistle" and "Buenos" than I published in my blog. Haven't been hit by the wolf whistle though - maybe I need to get out more? :-)