the grinch is my hero

There has to be something redeeming about enduring a six-week headache every bloody year.

If you're one of those types who loves Christmas cheer, Christmas decorations, Christmas presents, Christmas dinner... and especially if you feel offended by those nasty, awful Christmas haters, consider this (true) story that happened when I was in third year university:

Late April, a prematurely warm and humid night, sometime around two AM. At the single student's apartment building — a 300-unit set of real apartments, not dorm rooms — drunken louts are lurching and bellowing in the front drive. They're drinking on the front lawn, they're making an insane amount of noise, and they're doing an excellent job of keeping every other resident who wanted to sleep or study from doing so.

A woman on the third floor who is trying to prep a defence of her master's thesis decides she can't take any more. She sticks her head over her apartment balcony and offers the revellers alternatives to keeping the whole building awake. They could go to a friend's house. They could go to a bar. They could go to one of the empty fields of undeveloped land nearby and party out of earshot. She understands that they're done their exams and want to celebrate, but surely they can understand that not everyone else is on their schedule.

Two of the partiers hurl abuse and gobs of spit, but a third one walks over to where the woman's balcony is, beer bottle in hand, and tries to be philosophical.

"You've got to learn to loosen up," he tells her. "This is the time to enjoy yourself, when you're young. Plenty of time to work hard later on."

"But I'm defending my thesis tomorrow," the woman says. "Please, at least let me get some sleep."

The exchange repeats a few times in the way that such exchanges do, until the philosopher decides to expand his statement.

"What I figure is this," he says. "You've only got so many years to live, right? But no-one ever knows how many. So you might as well enjoy them as much as you can." He takes a pull from the beer bottle for emphasis.

"But I want to defend my thesis." The woman is pleading now. From the sixth-floor balcony where I am overhearing this, it sounds like she's in tears.

There's no point in calling the campus police. It's Sunday night and they're thinly staffed on weekends, especially during exam time. It could be dawn before they show up. There's no point in calling the community police either. Unless someone has punched someone else out, they'll claim it's a job for the campus police.

Eventually the louts did get tired and packed up the lawn party that night, but imagine if they hadn't for six weeks. Imagine there were louts all over the place, doing the same thing. Imagine they had their own set of songs — start with Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and work from there — that only got played during exam time. Imagine retail stores trying to cash in on the post-exam euphoria and having special sales to mark the occasion.

Then remember the Grinch at the start of Seuss's famous Christmas book, complaning about the noise.

Religion, tradition, or rite of passage, it doesn't really matter. If those who need to escape it can't, it's a nightmare, and it's irrelevant how much the participants enjoy it, or how big a community majority they are. If they have left no way to escape, they are being louts, no matter how charitable and moral they may be otherwise.

Yeah, the Grinch capitulated in the end, but that was because he was an anti-consumerist who found an overlap between the Whos's moral framework and his own. It also took heroic efforts on his part to get there.

I don't want to shut down Christmas, not any more than I would want to shut down a group of undergraduates celebrating the end of the school year. At the same time, I don't want anyone to shut me down, either. But that's what happens, every year.

So go ahead and celebrate if you want. Just be mindful of the neighbours.