Cheap Booze and Low Taxes Can’t Buy Happiness
You’d think people in New Hampshire would be among the happiest folks in the United States of America. Unspoiled wilderness. No statewide taxes. The lowest possible prices on liquor.
What more could anyone ask for?
Plenty, as it turns out.
According to a new study conducted by researchers for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
the Granite State is not only not the happiest place in the nation, it isn’t even the happiest state in New England. New Hampshire ranks a mediocre twenty-eighth in the country in this rating of joie de vivre. It gets beaten by the likes of North Dakota (twenty-fifth), Arkansas (which came in at eighteenth, in spite of having a town named Toad Suck) and even Vermont (seventeenth).
And where did Maine finish in the standings? I’m glad you asked. In fact, I’m positively overjoyed. No surprise that I feel that way. Maine is one of the happiest places in the U.S.A., coming in tenth, the highest ranking in the northeast and the only top-ten finisher outside the Sun Belt.
For true Mainers, as long as the Allen’s and the kerosene hold out, they are not about to be shaken from their inner bliss by such minor inconveniences as high unemployment, budget crises or horrible weather. We are not even dismayed that we have a township named Misery.
Hey, it beats Toad Suck.
It’s easy to guess why New Hampshire fared so poorly on the happiness scale. Its state symbol has been reduced to a pile of rubble, its Double-A baseball team plays in a place with the awful name of Merchantsauto.com Stadium, and the state has only marginally more seacoast than landlocked Wyoming (the eleventh happiest state). To top it all off, every four years, all the oiliest politicians in the nation show up in New Hampshire trying to convince the locals to elect them president.
What’s not to be depressed about?
Maine, on the other hand, is blessed with, among other things, the best animal protection laws in the country, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Our state tied with California (where dogs and cats can vote), Illinois (where weasels can be governor), Michigan (where wolverines are more important than people) and Oregon (which is nicknamed the Beaver State, thanks to the influence of its powerful rodent lobby).
By the way, New Hampshire finished somewhere in the middle of the pack on animal protection mostly because of its law allowing bird hunters to use surface-to-air missiles.
But Maine isn’t a happy place just because we take good care of our furry friends (here, Mr. Bear, have all the stale doughnuts you want). We also have other attractions that gladden the heart. Such as the Cat ferry that runs between Nova Scotia and Portland and Bar Harbor in the spring, summer and fall.
Well, to be technically correct, I suppose that sentence should read “used to run.” Because on December 19 (officially designated as Happiness Day in the state of Maine, but then, all days are officially designated as Happiness Day), Bay Ferries Ltd., which operates the Cat, announced it was canceling the service.
The company said its new marketing strategy calls for selling Canadian trips to gloomy people, and Mainers just wouldn’t fit in. Also, a huge subsidy the ferry received from the government of Nova Scotia has been canceled, making the runs unprofitable, no matter what attitude the passengers display. Officials in Canada and Maine are appealing that decision, asking the province to continue the subsidy for one more year to provide time for them to sign up another ferry operator, possibly with a smaller boat that’s cheaper to operate. Such a vessel wouldn’t be a snazzy, high-speed catamaran like the Cat, but there’s something to be said for sea travel on a clunky old barge with a name like “The Toad Suck” or “The Gloom of New Hampshire.”
This minor setback doesn’t make us sad. We’re Mainers, the tenth happiest people in America. When we’re hit with bad news, we handle it like mature, well-adjusted adults.
Also, some of us go for long bicycle rides. (Not me.) Except there’s a problem with that. The state Department of Transportation doesn’t permit bikes on limited access highways, which include Tukey’s Bridge in Portland, part of Interstate 295.
Pedestrians, horses and catamarans are also banned from those roads for safety reasons, and also because it’s difficult to keep a catamaran moving along at highway speeds except during severe floods.
Unfortunately, these rules don’t make everyone happy. And if we don’t stay vigilant about happiness, we might soon find ourselves dropping below New Hampshire in the ratings. Then, who would we have to make fun of?
New York, I suppose.
Back to bikes on the bridge. A group of riders is petitioning the transportation gurus to change the rules and allow peddlers in the breakdown lane on Tukey’s. They say the alternative route, along a poorly maintained jogging path, down several crime-ridden city streets, across a malarial swamp, over several high mountains controlled by the Taliban and through a cave filled with rabid bats is less than ideal.
I propose a compromise: ferry service for bikes from Portland to Falmouth. The only obstacles (other than an unsupportable business plan that will require a massive subsidy from Nova Scotia) would be hostile submarines, pirates, mutant sharks and people on rafts trying to escape New Hampshire.
Finally, there’s this tale guaranteed to bring happiness to all who were on the receiving end of it. On December 22, a man dressed as Santa Claus walked into the Goodwill store on Forest Avenue and started handing out envelopes with hundred-dollar bills in them.
In short order, he’d given away $10,000.
The money came from the subsidy Nova Scotia used to use to pay for ferry service to Maine.
Oops, sorry. Actually, it was donated by a prominent local businessman who wished to remain anonymous. (The Santa guy was his son.) The anonymous benefactor told the Portland Press Herald he hoped to inspire others to do the same thing.
People seemed happy to find themselves with unexpected cash, with several saying they’d share their good fortune with loved ones. But one guy said he was going to use the money for a vacation to a warmer climate. And where is he planning to go?
“Toad Suck, Arkansas,” he said.
Hey, it beats New Hampshire.
Al Diamon will be happy if you e-mail him at email@example.com.