My Uncle Leon had a whistle that could be heard several blocks away. He put a thumb and an index finger in his mouth and blew: the earth trembled; the water in the nearby Grand Canal in Dublin rippled; my big tough cousin CB shivered and raced home as fast as he could in response to his Dad's shrill call. He didn't dare not to!
Uncle Leon didn't need a cell phone!!
My parents and other uncles had a more genteel whistle that had a definite rhythm to it. I am not sexist, but women didn't whistle in those days (at least not the ones I knew). My maternal grandfather and his brothers ran a photographic studio in Dublin under the name of Franco Photographic studios and the whistle was known to all members of the family as the Franco Whistle. At a moments notice all members of the family could be rounded up, no matter how many people were present by the Franco whistle and once one got it they echoed it until the whole tribe vibrated with it. Indeed, in later years when I was married the Franco whistle often saved me from losing my wife and infants in the teaming department store jungles, in those pre-internet days.
We didn't need a cell phone!
Nowadays, I watch smartphones turning on their people and forcing them to maintain eye contact. Not even allowing them to drag their eyes away for such dangerous endeavors as crossing the road. I wonder if we have made as much progress as we think we have.
It still surprises me to see what in my day would have been considered a 'courting couple', sitting across from each other, remain hypnotized by their respective Phones, exchanging occasional bored glances at each other before enthusiastically returning their focus to their phone. They think they are 'connected' and they are - to their smartphone. I wonder how we used to manage to stay fascinated and excited by each other. Somehow we managed and often remained in a state of suspended excitement for a long periods. It may just have been something to do with testosterone which in those days used to reach very high levels.
I, being the old curmudgeon I am remain convinced that there is no substitute for pen and paper. The superficial and rather meaningless connections on Facebook and other social media do allow us to vent our frustrations or boast our achievements without effort and often without thought. Communications and connections with family and friends that were worth the effort of writing a letter, were often kept and cherished for a lifetime and formed the basis of many a biography or memoir and provided insights the like of which I have never seen in the tossed-off comments on Facebook. Writing did need some effort. You needed a pen and paper, the patience and skill to think about and express your thoughts and the ability to write legibly. The pen is connected to the fingers and eventually to the brain, if the writer has one. No such process takes place between the keyboard and the brain, which may at least partially explain why we read such unmitigated rubbish much of the time. Thus, although you may argue that the volume of communication has never been so great, the quality has never been so low.
I hope the Franco Whistle never makes its way onto Facebook.
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