Dear Amy: I am a line cook in a restaurant kitchen. It is a loud, hot and dangerous environment.
I like my job, though, and find satisfaction in prepping and preparing food.
I like the owners and all my co-workers except for one. That one person is the chef of the kitchen.
While I could list many reasons why I don’t care for him, I’m actively working on my own reaction to his behavior.
Unfortunately, I am becoming enraged about one of his terrible habits. He whistles ALL THE TIME. If he’s not talking, he’s singing and if he’s not singing, he’s whistling. Loud, sometimes tuneless, sometimes repetitive, but always whistling.
Once I clocked him whistling one song for 17 minutes. I cannot block it out, it makes me so mad. How can I bring this to his attention? We are a privately owned and run store. No HR, owners are there all the time, but I seem to be the only one who is bothered by this.
It’s become a joke among my co-workers and they will sing or whistle something around the chef to see if it “takes.” Sure enough, he’ll pick it up and whistle away. I don’t think he even realizes it.
I’m worried I’m going to blow one day and tell him to shut up! I don’t want to get fired.
Now is not the time to change jobs. I think if he knew how annoying it was, he might stop.
What can I do?
— Line Cook
Dear Line Cook: A person who whistles the same tune for 17 minutes nonstop might not be able to stop without great effort. This compulsive whistling might, in fact, be one behavior that helps to keep your chef focused and on-task in this very busy and dangerous environment. This may be how he quiets his mind, in order to multitask.
One observation is that — these days — whistling while you work seems to be a potentially dangerous virus-spreader.
Assuming that he and the rest of the kitchen staff take necessary precautions, you should work on your own ability to control your reaction to this nuisance.
My own (brief, unsuccessful) career as a waitress (and my many viewings of “Kitchen Nightmares”) gives me a tiny bit of insight into the dynamic of a typical restaurant kitchen. You likely have very little influence (and no actual power) to control your boss’s behavior. Exploding in rage would most likely NOT lead to a positive outcome for you.
You could try various techniques for tuning this out (ask others in the kitchen how they do it). Humming to yourself, or training your ear to tune into a different sound (the sizzle of the grill, the clanging of the plates) is worth a try. This is called selective auditory attention, and with practice, it will help you to cope while you contemplate taking another job.
Dear Amy: If two people are walking down a sidewalk toward each other, is it incumbent upon the person walking against the flow of traffic to move into the street to avoid close contact with the other pedestrian?
It would be unsafe for the person walking with the flow of traffic to move into the street.
This of course is for the time during COVID, when both people on the sidewalk would defy safe distancing rules if they stayed on the sidewalk.
— COVID Courtesy
Dear Courtesy: I could imagine a scenario where the person walking “against” traffic was also walking on the “far side” of the sidewalk. So, for that person to step off the curb and into the street in order to make way for the other, she would have to cross the other pedestrian’s path, which is not necessarily the “safest” move.
All of this just demonstrates how challenging it is to be 100 percent safe against virus transmission. It simply cannot be guaranteed. That is why mask wearing (even when outside, if you’re likely to encounter others) is an important safety measure. Also, I assume that many people do what I instinctively do in this situation: turn their head to the side in order to try to avoid any direct-fire exhalation.
Dear Amy: “Sick of Being Hit Upon” wondered why random men seem to hit on her. Your incredibly strident response was inadequate.
Why didn’t you just tell her that her inner attractiveness shows through her drab exterior?
Dear Upset: Many even outwardly attractive women don’t enjoy being hit on by strangers, and some men do this just because they can.
You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.