Tony Orlando’s communication system, Ortolans and the ranking of weird

The famous Omar Khayam poem referenced the birth of the idea of written communication, to quote

The moving finger writes and having writ moves on, nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line , nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

Thinking of it like a finger drawing in the sand, with the birth of the idea, it suddenly becomes writing

Since the idea of using sounds for things,then writing as symbols to represent those sounds complexity in communication reached an impasse.

Until one day. Tony Orlando, real name Michael Cassavitis had an idea.

What if the person isn’t in the room?

What if they’re in the floor below you?

Tony Orlando reached a peak few could match with his system.


Once – At first glance, this is perhaps the first failing of his system.

He has not assigned a meaning to one knock.

Wait. This is the genius of the system.

All  random knocks are eliminated from  having a meaning.  Orlando’s system doesn’t cause anxiety. All those times you think ‘What was that? What’s that noise? ‘

Relax – it doesn’t mean anything.

It is only on the second knock, the system kicks in.

Twice – No. The answer is no.
Three times – If you want me but he will be met only in the hallway.  Despite the overall song being a bit stalkery.

He is a gentleman. He will only meet her in the hallway, if she knocks  three times.

If she knocks three times accidentally, potentially Tony’s in trouble.

It should be noted that the woman lives in the floor below and, as his lyrics state,

“Only in my dreams did that wall between us come apart”

He was in the floor above and a ceiling separated them.Late at night, I imagine Tony descending quickly into  his neighbors apartment  from above.

A nice surprise for the young girl.

I realize Tony Orlando, whatever his living situation, seemed to live a very simple life.

I’m not really sure how he managed to feed himself.

Four Knocks – I’m dying of starvation.

Notice I am assuming he informed the woman below him of his communication system.

Knowing Tony, I have to assume he posted a note under the door, in order not to scare the woman below.

I’ll give him credit for not writing it in blood – not like some people – you know who you are!

Five Knocks – I no longer care.

I’m a bit embarrassed to ask him if his communication system has improved over the years,as I want to know one thing :-

How do you rate what is weird?

What makes one thing weirder than another?

I am having two concurrent thoughts :

(Yes, I know, you get none for ages and then two come along at once)

Ortolans, a rare songbird weighing less than an ounce –

Is a delicacy in France. One weekend a year, chefs would like the right to kill and catch them.
The killing and marinade is a two for one deal :
They are drowned in a vat of armagnac.

Nice way to die right?

Not really. You drown before the pleasure from the alcohol kicks in.

They are then traditionally eaten like this :
diners cover their head in a large napkin. They then pop the entire bird into their mouth and eat everything save the feet, crunching the bones as they go. The napkin is partly to keep in all the aromas of the dish, partly to disguise you having to spit out some of the bigger bones. But, mostly, because diners wish to hide the shame of eating such a beautiful creature from the eyes of God.

Versus – watching the soccer on a large screen in the middle of the street. The screen can barely be seen. A large number of humans start chanting at a similar moment. You also join in and you also feel this urge spontaneously.

What is weirder?

Are they not equally weird?

How can we decide which is the stranger of the two activities?

How can we rank human behavior consistently on a scale of weirdness?

What system can be used?

Six Knocks – This is getting too weird.


Was it really six knocks? Or was the first one just a random noise?

Where do I go to get help with this?

How many knocks is that?


The lyrics of Tony Orlando and Dawns knock three times song :

Hey girl what ya doin’ down there
Dancin’ alone every night while I live right above you
I can hear your music playin’
I can feel your body swayin’
One floor below me you don’t even know me
I love you
Oh my darling
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness
Means you’ll meet me in the hallway
Twice on the pipe means you ain’t gonna show
If you look out your window tonight
Pull in the string with the note that’s attached to my heart
Read how many times I saw you
How in my silence I adored you
Only in my dreams did that wall between us come apart
Oh my darling
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness
Means you’ll meet me in the hallway
Twice on…

6 thoughts on “Tony Orlando’s communication system, Ortolans and the ranking of weird

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