I Got Wolf-Whistled At The Other Day

I got wolf-whistled at the other day. …Catcalled at? Wolf-whistled at? I had to call my friends to ask for the correct terminology. No one could give me an answer. Anyway, two girls were driving past me in a car, and one of them did a long, low, sharp whistle, like Audrey Hepburn hailing a cab in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. …Wheet-whooot! Their car was yellow; a yellow sports car.

They were cute. …College-age? They looked like townies though. Sweatshirts, smoking cigarettes, driving around nowheresville Pennsylvania in their hot yellow car. “…I’ll be here until the day I die,” Samuel Beckett once said, when he was a young person, slumming his way through rural Ireland. “…Riding along empty roads on a stranger’s bike.” That’s pretty much what rural Pennsylvania is like; I grew up here, and now I’m back here, fifteen years later. There’s nothing here. You either get out or you perish.

The passenger’s-side girl whistled at me and I could not have been more surprised. In fact, I was shocked into coolness. What had just happened took a second to register, and so I reacted without processing the experience, giving them a subtle head nod, like I was walking down the corridors of my old high school. “Hey, ladies. Checking me out, eh? …Don’t worry, happens all the time; happens all the time.” It was one of the more suave moments of my life, although there’s only been about seven or eight suave moments in my life, so it’s not really tough competition.


The whistle complete, the two girls roared off, trailing a cloud of probable menthol cigarette smoke. …I continued to trudge along. And so we all continued in what we were doing, nihil sub sole novum.

Except that I called up my friend Tiffany: “Hey I think I just got wolf-whistled at.” No comma.

“You did?” she said. “…Guy or girl? Where were you at?” Tiffany has a way of driving to the heart of the matter like that.

“Or is it cat-called at?”

“I think both.”

I explained. “Girls. It was probably ironic, though.”

And Tiffany sighed in response. “Not everything is ironic, Oliver.”

“…I know that, but how can I tell?”

“They probably weren’t being ironic with their whistling. …I mean, who does that?”

Oh this modern age that we live in. Oh, the era of irony. We discussed the wolf-whistle — cat call? — for a while longer: who what when where why? And then we talked about some other things for a while.


The thing was, I looked like sh-t at the time. This in itself is not surprising; I often look like sh-t. In college, I majored in English Literature, and minored in Classical Languages and in Looking Like Sh-t. The thing was, I was wearing a duffel coat and a torn sweater, and a scratched digital watch, and my jaw was swollen up from my first-ever toothache. Have you ever had a toothache before? I haven’t. I’m too poor to go to the dentist at the moment, so I was dosing the infection with a home-brew remedy suggested by one of my roommates in my halfway house: hydrogen peroxide mixed with water, plus lots of aspirin. Doing this, swilling basic chemicals around in my mouth, made me feel as though I had been cast back to the year 1423, before dentists existed. And minus the digital watch, that’s what I looked like: a medieval peasant from the year 1423, with my hooded coat and my torn shirt made of wool.

I was walking. I do a lot of walking these days. As I’ve mentioned before, I currently live in a halfway house for alcoholics. And I don’t have a car, which is a pisser, not having a car like that.

Not having a car really casts you back in time. Not back into pre-historic time, not like The Flintstones or anything like that. It casts you back in time to being fourteen and longing to one day have a car. Oh, the sadness of it all.


Intimations of the end, but one by one. I am heading towards the finish of something. …My clothes were worn out when the girls hooted at me. This is because all of my clothes are worn out. …It’s the end of irony. I was wearing my Urban Outfitter jeans with my touching black Calvin Klein sweater with the leather packets on the elbows with my black Casio digital watch. But my jeans have holes in them, and not prefabricated holes. They have holes in them because they’re worn out and have holes in them. The leather patches are ripped and torn. The watch is scratched. …I’m a hipster hobo. My friend came up with that term for me the other day, and I like it. “A hipster hobo.” I have third-world problems, but a first-world attitude. My clothes were designed to make me look poor, because I had money when I bought them. My watch was meant to be an ironic, a fifteen dollar 1980s joke of a watch. But now it just makes me look like every poor person ever.

I kept on walking. I have seen, while walking, in other journeys, other hobos and homeless men; not hipster ones, but real ones. I have seen old black men, sitting on street corners — wearing their one suit, their one dress shirt, and their one tie. Their wing-tips with the holes in the soles. And I thought: Why? Why bother to dress up? Now, after being checked out by the townie girls, the obvious revelation came to me: because homeless people don’t want to look homeless. So simple, and so very, very duh. Rich people can afford to look poor because they’re rich. So very very duh. But I’ve been having a lot of obvious revelations now — now that I’m a hobo, and I feel like having obvious revelations kind of suits me. Truths that are so close to the surface that they are verging on cliché. We live so close to truth that it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of our eyes.

The girls were long gone now. Tiffany had moved on to talking about her divorce. It started to rain, to drizzle, because of course it did.

The girls weren’t being ironic by whistling (probably). And I wasn’t being ironic by wearing sh-tty clothes (probably). The sky darkened, and I continued walking through the rain. The age of irony was at an end. …But was there anywhere else to go?  TC mark

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Thumbnail image – Swing Shift Cinderella


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  • Anonymous

    Stunning writing. Thank you for this, really. You wreak of who you’ve read. In the best way.

  • Anonymous

    Americans and irony. Oh dear.

    • Oliver Miller

      Irony is big over here!  We love it!

  • guest

    “I have third-world problems, but a first-world attitude.”
    you definitely don’t have third world problems don’t say stuff like that so lightly

    • Oliver Miller

      I have SOME third world problems, such as not having enough money for food, etc.  (“Some” was meant to be implied in that sentence.)  But if I went too far by saying that, then I’m willing to take my lumps.  I wasn’t trying to say it lightly, I was also trying to not give a litany of my current problems.

      • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

        You don’t have enough money for food but you do have enough money for a cell phone? Please elaborate.

      • Oliver Miller

        Cell phone bills are paid once a month; food needs to be bought on a consistent basis, groupiepants. And having a phone is helpful if you want to, say, get a job.

      • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

        It was an honest question. I wasn’t aware that reading and commenting on articles (essays?) on a website I enjoy made me a “groupie”.Wait..how come the comment replies I receive via email are sometimes different than the ones posted on TC?

      • Oliver Miller

        Because I edited that part out right after I posted it.  Okay, let’s just do a hug.   Ready for a hug?  *Hug.*  Okay, one more small hug.  *Hug.*  Okay, we’re good and we’re both past the misunderstanding thing.

      • http://www.nicholeexplainsitall.com EarthToNichole

        I feel violated.

        (Not really. It’s all good. We can go back to being frenemies, or whatever.)

      • Cracker997

        Well actually third world problems are more like “Gee, I really hope this water I’m drinking doesn’t have ecoli,” or, “I hope I don’t stand on a landmine on my way to school. ”

        I would say you have first world problems of the lower class variety. I had them too, like the foodbank keeps giving me dried mashed potatoes (which are gross by the way) or I’m tired of eating spam for lunch and dinner.

        Generally if you have your own computer, you’re alright. If you ever get too hungry, pawn it and use the PCs at your local library.

        Not judging, just saying.

      • Oliver Miller

        I don’t want to get rid of my computer, though.  I need it to write articles to make $$$.  And you can’t smoke cigs while writing at the library.  …I guess these are 1st world problems though.

  • Guy

    Oliver, this was fantastic.  You are consistently my favorite writer on the site nowadays.  Best of luck

  • Tiffany

    Feel like I need to reiterate that I did NOT say “where were you at.”

    • Oliver Miller

      Christ, you ALWAYS say that.

  • Oliver Miller

    That was me misquoting ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,’ actually. I just fixed the quote to better match the original one, sigh.

  • Sophia

    “That’s pretty much what rural Pennsylvania is like … There’s nothing here. You either get out or you perish.” From someone who grew up there as well, this is so, so true. It’s really sad.

  • Hank

    I do not like this abuse of the word ‘hobo.’  A hobo is not just any homeless person; a hobo is a particular kind of homeless person:  the itinerant worker.  I.e., someone who travels in order to find work, often hopping trains.  Exact etymology unclear; either derived from the words “homeward bound” or “hoe boy” (viz., a farm hand).  Differentiated from a tramp, which is a homeless person who travels but does not work, and a bum, who neither travels nor works (also called the ‘home guard’ or ‘homebums’ in the parlance of today’s traveling homeless).   

    • Oliver Miller

      There is a difference, but considering I used it in a made-up, semi-inaccurate phrase, I’m not majorly sweating it.

      • Hank

        …but I actually know hipsters that are hobos. 


      • Oliver Miller


  • Natalie

    “The age of irony was at an end. …But was there anywhere else to go?” Well you just have ALL the answers. 

  • Anonymous

    Oliver, you went to a liberal arts college, didn’t about a quarter of the rich kids pay some exorbitant amount to look like a hobo? I would say that you were fitting in

  • charlie

    This isn’t about you getting, er, wolf-whistled at (?) at all, but it is such a nice piece of writing. I’ll have to quote you a lot later, Olilver.

    • Oliver Miller

      True, it wasn’t really about being whistled at.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Reading the varying installments regarding your journey through sober living is giving me a reason to keep checking TC. You really killed it with that third to last paragraph, btw.

    • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

      I *think* you’d still be correct if you just said catcalled or wolf-whistled, sans “at”. 

      (And now, all we have to do is wait for the grammar/syntax trolls to crawl out from under their bridges to crucify me.)

      • Oliver Miller

        I was fucked if I could figure out the “at” thing and all the grammar sites I looked up were being crazily contradictory about it, sigh.

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Whatever, it’s a footnote and didn’t take anything away from the piece as a whole. Nicely done.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Reading the varying installments regarding your journey through sober living is giving me a reason to keep checking TC. You really killed it with that third to last paragraph, btw.

  • A Badger

    Hey, remember when we got “fags” yelled at us for daring to walk around together at night in D.C.?  Yeah, that was great.

    • Oliver Miller

      I thought we got yelled at for driving together in my car!  Because driving with another guy = sooo gay.  Which is why I’ve never driven with anyone since that day.

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