Once upon a time, an old curmudgeon lived in a small town. He rarely missed opportunities to be grouchy.
At homecoming in the fall, he’d grumble that homecoming queens were prettier when he was young.
When an enterprising young person opened a new business on Main Street, he’d predict business failure before the end of summer.
The old curmudgeon was, not unexpectedly, at his worst around Christmas time. Bright Christmas lights and the thought of cutting down a perfectly good evergreen tree just to put in the house for a couple weeks and then throw out in the trash seemed ridiculous. His personal hero for the season was always Ebenezer Scrooge; that is the Ebenezer at the beginning of Dickens’ story, not cheery Scrooge at the end, after his night of Christmas ghosts.
No, the old curmudgeon (and let’s just call him O.C.) thought, “Bah, humbug!” was an appropriate and fit comment for the Christmas season, and all the rest of the seasons, too. If there was an occasion worth celebrating, it probably deserved a Humbug!
Then a strange thing happened. Many of us called it “2020.”
As the year developed, O.C. started getting this strange feeling that being the town’s Old Curmudgeon was getting to be a crowded field.
He first noticed it as the political season started heating up, what with an impeachment trial in January, and then party primaries, as contenders vied to take on the incumbent president.
As the year wore on and the final candidates emerged, people started yelling at each other and calling each other names. O.C. looked on it all and wondered, “Where did all these amateurs come from?”
Of course, every other year is an election year of one sort or another, so O.C. was ready to laugh it off, except a new factor came along. Nothing serious, just a world-wide pandemic, called Coronavirus or Covid-19.
Some people were ringing alarms over this new disease, while others said, “No big deal. It’s no worse than the flu.” People in authority in some places said, “We’re got to shut things down and reduce the probability of disease transmission.” Some people yelled out, “Bah, humbug!”
Other people in authority said, “This new disease is nothing to worry about. Come, let’s gather together and celebrate weddings, graduations, and motorcycles. What could go wrong?” Then other people started yelling, “Bah, humbug!”
No matter what happened, however, more people kept getting sick and many people died, some, with their dying breaths croaking out a hoarse, “Bah, humbug!”
In the middle of all this, an election took place, and after the votes were counted and winners and losers were decided, people of all political stripes and persuasions started yelling, “Bah, humbug!”
O.C. finally couldn’t take it any longer.
O.C. went into his shop and created a big sign and then walked down Main Street with his sign, a sign saying in big letters, “Peace!”
People watched him walk by, wondering, “Isn’t that O.C.? What’s the deal with him?” Finally, a group of civic and business leaders caught up with O.C. and asked him, “What’s the big deal?”
O.C. grumbled and started explaining. “For years, I’ve been perfectly happy being the town’s old curmudgeon. I thought someone had to be grouchy about things, but I can’t take the competition anymore.”
He continued, “Look, people, it’s December. We celebrate Christmas in a couple days. We just had Hanukah, the celebration of light. Next week is Kwanza, a celebration of African-American culture. If you really have grievances, today is Festivus, that airing of grievances from that Seinfeld episode. Lighten up!”
The people stood there, shocked at O.C.’s message, then started nodding and smiling at each other, and started to give each other elbow bumps as a sign of peace.
The mayor turned to O.C. and said, “Thanks, O.C. We needed this reminder that we really need to work at getting along together in these times. You know what? After New Year, we’re going to give you the Key to the City.”
O.C. uncharacteristically smiled a moment, then growled, “Bah, humbug!”