I work on a boat. Our newest crew member whistles incessantly. We also live on the boat, so I can't really escape it when I go home, which is down below in the cabin adjacent to his.
When there's music playing—which is all the time—his whistling becomes almost frenzied. It's kind of atonal and arrhythmic with regards to the songs he's supposedly whistling along to, which makes it especially annoying—although I think even if he were a gifted whistler I'd still be going up the wall. I find myself turning off music because I can't take it anymore. Although I've never said anything, he mentioned previous captains and crew gave him a hard time for it, and I can see why. It never stops.
Now, I like the guy. He's very nice and a great worker. But I actually think the whistling might prevent him from being hired after his trial period, a long three months from now. We are five people sharing very close quarters, so a compulsive behavior can really drive everyone nuts, especially me because I usually work with him all day. We haven't had to be on anchor with him yet—but that gets really claustrophobic really fast and I'm worried I'll lose it and go off on him.
I don't want to make a delicate working/living situation awkward—which is so easy to do and so hard to undo on a boat—but I'm at my wit's end. I'd like to ask him to be more aware of how often and how loudly he whistles. Is that okay?
First of all, this "atonal," "arrhythmic," "almost frenzied" whistling sounds nightmarish—I'm picturing something like the first few seconds of this 1992 commercial starring Vanessa Paradis as a human bird that wants to sell you Chanel.
Unwanted noise when you're trying to work is the worst.
When I work from the Gawker offices, which are loud because the machine that purposely inserts the typos into the blog posts makes a lot of racket, I do so while wearing earplugs and noise canceling headphones and listening to white noise (brown noise) and it's STILL TOO MUCH NOISE.
But at the end of the day, I get to leave. You are trapped with a person who is simultaneously the world's most annoying coworker and roommate.
Now, as the fearsome Pirates Who Don't Do Anything taught us, a little sing-along every once in a while can be a great way to raise crew spirits and break up the tedium of days at sea. But whistling, like the stream of questions that flows from a child relentlessly interrogating her father about basic atmospheric science, is one of those sounds that is only entertaining when you catch a snippet of it in passing. A guy walking by your window whistling a tune is a charming chap on his way to meet his best gal. A guy standing underneath your window whistling a tune is a menace.
I'm touched that you're concerned your coworker's whistling might prevent him from eventually being hired longterm; if I were in your situation, I would spend every day wishing he would just get fired already.
Normally for something like this, I would recommend broaching the subject in a jokey way.
"Are you Flo Rida? Because you been singin' that Whistle song since you got here!"
"Do I look like Anna McNeill Whistler, sitting for a portrait in your London studio? Because you got me feeling like Whistler's Mother!"
"WOW, YOU REALLY WHISTLE ALL THE GODDAMN TIME AND IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY AND I WANT TO STRANGLE YOU haha!"
But you say he's already mentioned that past Snow Whites have given him grief for whistling while he works.
A good lifehack is that if everyone at your old job and the job you had before that and the job you had before that confronted you with the same complaint about your annoying habit, you should do your best to eliminate that habit from your repertoire of tricks. Your coworker has, for whatever reason, chosen not to abide by this tip. Maybe he can't, because it's a nervous tic. Maybe he won't because he's a water demon, who whistles while aboard ships even though a common sailor superstition holds that whistling on a ship is bad luck.
Doesn't it seem odd that this charismatic stranger—with eyes the gray-green of the ocean during a storm, who always smells slightly of sulfur—strode into your lives at the exact moment you were looking to hire someone? Isn't it strange that this seasoned old salt would have no work references? No past? No clothes except the ones he was wearing the day you met him? No plans for the future because "I always seem to land on my feet..."
Perhaps he travels from port to port, joining up with new ships and setting sail, only days later to whistle up hellish tempest that casts his wretched crew into the sea, their souls a mere drop in the bucket of his yearly quota.
Either way, since gentle joshing has historically shown no effect, I would go to the skipper on the issue of the whistling. He's the one with the authority to do something drastic if he thinks it's appropriate, including banishing this sea demon to the churning tide whence he came. Otherwise, you're just one more jerk with no sway telling this guy to "stop being so annoying."
If the captain declines to intervene, try keeping the whistler's mouth occupied with an endless supply of chewing gum.
I am the kind of person who hates useless junk. I detest Snuggies/fancy soap dispensers / Batman snow-globes or anything of the ilk that some people buy when they have no proper meaningful (birthday) gift. Since I hate crap like that so much I prefer to give away experiences as gifts. I plan on giving my friend Mike theater-tickets for his upcoming birthday. We both like theater and we rarely see each other, so I thought it would be nice if just the two of us went and saw a play with me footing the bill. Right? A mutual friend says: Wrong! Her reasoning is that if I want to give him theater tickets I should just give him two tickets and let him decide whom to bring. (At this point let me state that I have absolutely no romantic interest in Mike!) Maybe he will want to go with me, maybe he will want to go with a date, his tickets, his business. I disagree. Me going to the theater with Mike, is part of the gift, isn't it? Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
No, you cannot give your friend "theater tickets" for his birthday, and then, as he's accepting them, jerk one away and say "Actually, it's ‘theater ticket' because I'm coming too."
You also cannot treat him (and you!) to a couple's massage. You cannot book him a night in a fancy honeymoon suite "and I'll come too because we never get a chance to gab!" You cannot buy him a wedding dress so that, if he ever does find a woman to marry (he won't find her at the theater—you'll be his date to that), she won't have to spend money on a gown. (Just pick out one that looks great on you—he'll probably marry somebody your size, right? Maybe he'll even marry you, haha, just joking...just...joking...)
And, though it is great, you must resist the temptation to buy him the most thoughtful gift of all: a present for you, so that when your next birthday rolls around, he won't have to shell out for one. So much hassle saved! No need to send flowers, Mike; a thank-you card will suffice.
A presence is not a present, especially if it's imposed. The polite thing to do in this situation is to give your friend both tickets and let him bring whomever he chooses.
If you present him with two tickets, there's a chance he'll feel obligated (or maybe even want! You guys have great chemistry.) to invite you as his theater date anyway. But let him decide that if for no other reason than he can feel generous for using his birthday present on you.
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here. Image by Jim Cooke.