Bem-ti-Vi

The mystery is solved!

Since we arrived, we’ve been seeking the source of a night-time whistling, heard throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning. Many times after we arrived, Tom would return from walking the dogs in the dark and declare, “I almost saw it!” referring to the bird we were intently hunting as the source of the whistle. We’d heard the local bem-ti-vi, a bird whose name mimics its call (BEM-CHEE-VEE), and figured that the Whistler might be a similar bird.

The call sounded like a penny-whistle to me, but was never exactly the same, and it came at all hours of the night. We figured it had to be a bird. Oddly enough, none of our friends in the condo buildings have heard it, so they were no help.

One night, Tom saw a man on a dark street making that sound with a penny-whistle. So, it wasn’t a bird, after all! But, why was he whistling on a dark side street? Our hackles rose: we’d heard about this. It was the call of a drug dealer. With so many homeless on the streets around us, we figured this might be his way of notifying customers that he had wares to sell.

Suddenly, the enchantment was gone. Thereafter, whenever we’d hear the whistle, we’d just shake our heads sadly at the state of the world, the magic gone.

Then, last night when he took the dogs out for their last perambulation, he heard the whistle again, and saw the man across the street by Bar Tina, a local hangout for a group of gentlemen who sit and sip beer and chat. As Tom crossed over to the bar in the course of the walk, the Whistler and the bar owner greeted him (they see us every day; we’re on nodding status). Overcome by curiosity, Tom asked what the whistling was about (figuring now it wasn’t to do with drug dealing).

Turns out that Odilson (the Whistler) is a night watchman, who patrols two of the side streets near us, making sure that street people don’t plant themselves on the doorsteps of the homes during the night (which they are wont to do). His whistle signals to the homeowners who have hired him that he is on his beat, and warns the street dwellers that they will be moved along if he sees them.

whistler

I have to admit, a touch of the magic is back. It’s not a bird, but it is a man at work, holding back the night. I like that.