There is a dude I’ve encountered at a couple markets in Mexico City who walks around holding a big, black plastic garbage bag. You can hear him coming from a couple aisles away, because it sounds like he is accompanied by a very angry cat. The first time you come upon him, you are a bit startled because he seems to have a cat inside this garbage bag that is flopping about vigorously.
You may then become horrified as he asks a fellow passer-by to kick the cat in the bag. Or, you may quickly realize the “cat” is in fact a long wooden stick, hidden inside the bag, that the guy smacks against the inside of the bag to simulate a cat.
What is the purpose of this witty theatrical display? He is selling a product that I like to call the “Cat Whistle”. This 10 peso gem (worth every centavo, I might add) is a small foam/plastic whistle that you place against the roof of your mouth. Depending on how it is positioned in your mouth & how you blow on it, the whistle makes a noise eerily similar to a cat who is getting the crap beaten out of it. HOWEVER, my friends, the value does not end there!!! The small piece of paper that accompanies the whistle in its packaging depicts the wide array of other animals that can be simulated with this same product. Not only can you recreate a baby crying, but seemingly every common barnyard animal + a few more exotic options!
In the event you are having trouble visualizing this hilarity, check out the below video courtesy of friend James:
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that there is no way you will reproduce 90% of the animal noises this whistle claims to enable. It CAN be done, because I’ve seen the sales guy go through about 6 of ’em in quick succession. However, this is totally one of those things where you think “Well that looks easy enough!”, and then you get it home & it makes one sound, tops.
Luckily the cat noise is the easiest & funniest one to make. The first time I ran into this guy, John’s dad was with us on a visit to Mercado Jamaica. John looked on with disgust as his dad & I about pissed ourselves because we were laughing so hard while watching this guy. We both bought a Cat Whistle, and discussed various strategies for Bob to incorporate the Cat Whistle into his job at a university. Top of the list is: while giving a presentation to colleagues, start making cat noises, ask “Is there a goddamn cat in this room?”, and while everyone distractedly looks for the cat, grab the stuffed animal cat you were hiding on your chair & throw it at someone. Watch hilarity ensue.
As a side note, this product reminds me a lot of Rocky the Raccoon. I vividly remember my mom & I making this purchase on my first trip to Washington DC, from a magic store in Union Station. The salesman worked this springed puppet like a pro, making it appear that he had the liveliest raccoon I’d ever seen climbing up his body. Needless to say, once my mom & I got it back to the hotel room to show my dad, it simply looked like me pushing a slinky covered in brown fur across my chest.
My dad was somehow the only one in our family who could make Rocky the Raccoon function as advertised. I was forever jealous, and made a mental note to never again buy a product whose usage required special niche skills. Obviously that lesson was instantly forgotten when I heard the seductive sounds of the Cat Whistle…
Note to all Mexico City residents: Valentine’s Day *is* coming up, and you know what they say…. A Cat Whistle is forever.