Q. My fiancÃ©e and I rent a wonderful apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. A man sits on the stoop across the street and whistles as long as the sun shines. He whistles a repeating pattern, like someone breathing in and out of a harmonica. When we politely ask him to stop, he does, but only until we are out of view. It feels unfair that we cannot enjoy having the windows open in our home. Is there another approach?
A. You know what drives me crazy? The sound of a person chewing gum. If the gum chewer is unfortunate enough to be my ever-patient husband, I tell him to stop. Otherwise, I leave the room, or stew.
In other words, many of us find some noises irksome, even if they are not universally abhorred. But a noise that bothers you is not necessarily one that violates the cityâs noise code. A car alarm blaring endlessly at 3 a.m. â that is a nuisance, and you could call 311 or 911. A man whistling on his stoop on a sunny afternoon? Not so much.
âGiven the range of possible noises that one could hear in New York City â from jackhammers to crying babies, this is something we should smile about,â said Thomas P. Farley, the author of âModern Manners: The Thinking Personâs Guide to Social Graces.â
So far, both you and the whistler have handled the situation maturely. You asked him to stop his tune, and he did â for as long as he could. But he may not even realize that heâs whistling.
So what should you do? Embrace the neighborhood where you live, with neighbors who enjoy sitting on their stoops socializing and, in this case, humming a tune. No one else has sounded the alarm, why should you?
âLet the man do his whistling,â Mr. Farley said. âItâs clearly not meanspirited.â
Next time you open your windows, turn on the radio, too. A pleasant melody might drown out the sounds from the street. You may find that if you accept the sound as a permanent neighborhood fixture, it may become less grating (although I canât say the same thing about chewing gum).