There was an Italian cafe across the street from campus my freshman year. The building that housed this little cafe was eerily jinxed, maybe even haunted, or perhaps owned by people who would deny the importance of a college education. It was there that I learned my first college-days lesson, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Restauranteurs were like transient phantoms in that building. As soon as a restaurant would apply for a liquor license, my alma mater and a brood of other concerned citizens would protest (seeing as how it was illegal in our town for a restaurant to sell alcohol a mere bottle’s toss away from a school where minors roamed). Regardless of whether the city granted, withheld, or revoked such a license, the neighborhood consumers would stop consuming — whether a Mexican place or a deli or a ritzy steak joint, no restaurant could turn a profit after taking the suicidal liquor-license-application step.

Disregarding the historical tradition, new owners would invariably feel compelled to file for a license, apparently believing a liquor license would reap for them more positive returns than the negative effects of the lost across-the-street business. They were always wrong. By the time I left school, nearly 8 years later, I didn’t even know what restaurant was currently occupying the building — maybe they even tore it down? — because I had become so accustomed to ruling it out as a possible place to eat.

My freshman year, however, the occupants were Italian chefs, jovially cranking out affordable pasta and hot Italian subs or pizza on plastic plates, all Fazoli’s-like. An acquaintance from class or the dorms took me over there with a group of upperclassmen. A guy at another table was a graduating senior whom I knew from my hometown. I think it’s a pity, in a way, that he could’ve gone ahead and taught me this lesson when we were growing up together, but here on out he will bask in fame, having taught me the first real useful thing I remember learning at college. (I still count it as “college,” even though we were indeed a bottle’s toss off campus at the time.)

Pay attention, ladies, for I think I may say this only once. I own verbal rights to pass the legacy on to my children, but I’ve never investigated the royalties for publishing information of this nature via the blog venue. I have refrained for three years on my own blog, and I feel that now must be the perfect time and platform to flash the worldwide web with wisdom.

The how-to is easy, and the honing-to-perfection is pretty much a snap, as well.

1. Take a plastic straw,
2. Insert it into your [pop] (or “coke,” if you attend college in the South, “soda” if in some parts of Illinois and Minnesota, etc.),
3. Suck up a strawful of [pop],
4. Place your tongue at the top (thereby to hold said [pop] at the same level),
5. Raise the strawful of [pop] an inch or two above the level of the rest of the [pop] in your glass (but do not remove the straw entirely out of the glass nor away from the glass),
6. Pinch the bottom of the straw, closed firmly between two fingers,
7. Remove your tongue as the vacuum cap (the [pop] will remain in the straw now because of your pinching at the foot of it),
8. Take a deep breath,
9. Blow slowly but steadily across the top of the straw, WHILST
10. Simultaneously, and equally as slowly-and-steadily, loosening your pinch at the foot of the straw,
11. Allow the [pop] to escape slowly and steadily out the bottom of the straw and into your glass, WHILST
12. Still blowing, you will hear a hollow whistle whose sound will gradually lower in pitch as more air appears in your straw and less [pop] clogs it.

When rightly executed, you’ll find this no-mess talent has the potential to entertain fellow diners and spur tabletalk from friends or complete strangers for half-hours on end!

A childish prank? Perhaps. Or maybe something more. I am 29, as yet still unwed, and looking forward to family life, if the Lord permits. I haven’t done a lot of pre-planning for my future wedding, nor do I sit around making up traditions to incorporate into my future home. In excess, such pre-prep seems contrived, inauthentic, simply because I have no tangible “hooks to hang it on.” It’s like counting ice cubes that are probably going to melt.

I do have one pre-fabbed rule established for my future household, despite my virgin naivete of child-rearing pits and loopholes: MY KIDS MAY SING AND WHISTLE AT THE TABLE, SHOULD THEY EVER SO DESIRE.

I am a soup-aholic, and I blow on my hot soup to cool it off. (I even blow on my frozen ice cream to melt it down.) And why just blow, when you could whistle a little tune at the same time? I do indeed whistle, and I plan to keep on whistling over my soup in my own home, and I do not plan to stop whistling when I start sharing my table with my kids. One group of college-friends and I used to close our weekly lunches with a hymn — right there in the dining common amongst thousands of people. A little music is good for the digestion.

Can I possibly imagine that my own offspring might embarrass me one day if I allow them to cultivate such a habit? I do imagine they will. Do I fear it? (Ought we fear embarrassment?) No, not really. There are worse fates. I would like to teach them to consider the expectations and preferences of other households (table-singing on visits or in public would be a matter of disobedience punishable by revoked table-singing privileges at home), but I would also like to teach them to appreciate life, to share themselves, to harmonize, to delight in the smallest gifts, and to do it together.

And I guarantee they won’t be waiting till college to learn the lesson of the whistling straw.