"Freeway Whistler" used by permission of artist Steve O'Loughlin. The original is oil on canvas 20x20. View more of Steve's terrific Celtic art at http://www.stevenoloughlin.com/

Of course, all of us who are aware of the perils of Knee Driving know that our friend here  is stuck in a traffic jam.



The Chiff & Fipple Message Board  recently developed a thread of messages about whistling in cars and it reminded me that it has been some time since I posted a rant about the dangers of, as we like to call it in the whistle community, Knee Driving.  This will be old hat for you veterans, but we have many new members who may be in danger.

If you must whistle, do not drive and if you must drive do not whistle.

Do not yield to the temptation to play that whistle when the car is moving.  Not even when you're on that long stretch of straight, flat, traffic-free highway.  Don't do it.  The dangers are many and here's an incomplete list.

1.  You get to explain to a judge why playing a musical instrument while driving didn't contribute to the 9-car accident you caused.  The judge goes home and tells his wife over dinner about the idiot he had in his court that was trying to explain why playing a musical instrument while driving didn't contribute to the 9-car accident the idiot caused.

2.  You start to run off the road and you drop the whistle in your lap and oversteer and lose control and run off the other side of the road and your car ramps into the air, goes fully airborne and lands on a cow.  You have to pay the farmer for the cow.  You don't get to keep the beef. 

3.  Due to not having your hands on the wheel, you have an accident and your airbag deploys and the force of it causes the whistle to impale you through the medulla oblongata or maybe the brain stem.  This ruins your whole day on account of the fact that you use your medulla and your brain stem a lot.  Trust me, I'm a doctor.  I know about this kind of thing.

Which reminds of me the Phineas Gage thing.  Remember? 

Phineas Gage was a young railroad construction supervisor in the Rutland and Burland Railroad site, in Vermont. In September 1848, while taking a break and playing an early version of an Overton low D whistle (1848 was, of course, before Colin Goldie's time, so Bernard Overton must have made it), an explosion projected the whistle against his skull, at a high velocity. The whistle entered his head through his left cheek, traversed the frontal part of the brain, and left the top of the skull at the other side. Gage lost consciousness immediately, however, he recovered conscious moments later, and was taken to a local doctor, John Harlow.  Amazingly, he was talking and could walk.  (It was amazing that Phineas could talk and walk.  I'm not sure about the doctor).  Phineas lost a lot of blood, but after a bout with infection, he not only survived the ghastly lesion, but recovered well, too.   Months later, however, Gage began to have startling changes in personality in mood. He became obsessed with collecting whistles, as opposed to actually playing them, and could no longer hold a job or plan his future.   "Gage was no longer Gage", said his friends of him. He died in 1861, thirteen years after the accident, penniless, homeless, with only the clothes on his back and a really fabulous whistle collection.   His former physician, John Harlow, interviewed his friends and relatives, and wrote three articles, reporting Gage's reconstructed medical history, one in 1848, entitled "Passage of a Low D Whistle Through the Head", another in 1868, titled "Recovery from the Passage of a Low D Whistle Through the Head", and another in 1869, "Neurotraumatic Whistle Obsessive Acquisition (N-WhOA) Disorder Due to Passage of a Low D Whistle Through the Head."

So, anyway, next time you think about whistling while driving (or, taking a break on a construction site in Vermont, or snow skiing, or operating a crane, or operating on a crane [veterinarians only], think about about Phineas Gage and how you could end up like him or, more likely, worse.