Carson: The off-campus party dilemma

Mike Carson

I’ve never been much for parties, although I’ve probably attended more than my share. So when a friend talked my roommates and me into throwing a party to promote his new website last week, it didn’t take much convincing to make me commit to watching the door all night.

I stationed myself on the front porch with a pot of black coffee, patrolling for loud-mouth smokers, over-served sorority girls and anyone else who might bother the neighbors. Stone sober, I tried to keep a sense of humor, even after a perfect stranger’s stomach lost the battle to his Keystone Light within a splatter’s distance of my right foot.

It was my job to make sure us bright-eyed, overachieving undergrads didn’t disturb the neighbors with our get-together. Across the street lives a family with an adorable little girl, about eight years old, who looks for all the world like Cindy Lou Who. All I wanted was to avoid becoming the Grinch Who Stole Thursday.

I’m not sure Evanston residents or the University really understand that, for at least some of us, the decision to throw a party causes more stomach problems than Keystone Light caused my new friend. But without getting preachy about on-campus alcohol policies, well-intentioned kids have nowhere else to go but into the community for their fundraisers, frat parties, cast parties and sports socials. So unless I wanted to tell my friend where to stick his party, the best I could hope for was keeping the noise contained. That goal forced me into the role of the youngest grumpy old man in Evanston, chasing those darn kids off my lawn while gulping down coffee on the porch.

I shook hands with a police officer at least four times, each coming with a friendly warning to keep the noise down and the crowds out of sight. I sense most Northwestern kids fear or resent the police who show up to parties. I got along fine with them because we made each others’ jobs easier-I did everything I could to keep the noise down, and their flashlights scared the kids off my porch and away from my house.

By the end of the night I was feeling down about the whole thing-here were generally decent kids, trying to generate buzz for a project they believe in, thrust next to decent families with a reasonable expectation of some peace and quiet in their suburban homes. Throw in police officers trying to keep things contained while maintaining a fair distance, it added up to a pretty tense give-and-take. I didn’t see a better solution than to keep badgering and bullying everyone into keeping quiet on my porch.

I finally turned in at around 1:45 a.m. once all but a handful of people had left. I cracked my only beer of the night in my empty basement apartment, and momentarily enjoyed what I thought was a job reasonably well done.

At least until I woke up the next morning to find a note from the neighbors on my door, telling us with a strained politeness to be courteous of their children. Apparently someone on the porch had disturbed them at 2:10 a.m. So much for my noise control. You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

Mike Carson is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected].