Friday, July 25, 2014

Living in happy land

I am ecstatic. Why? Because I've just learned I live in the fourth happiest metropolitan area in the U.S. of A.

According to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Naples (Fla.) metro area, of which I’m a resident, trails only Charlottesville, Va., Rochester, Minn., and Lafayette La., when it comes to the percentage of residents who say they are happy.

Beats me how we came in fourth. We should have been first.

I’ve been to Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, a couple of times. (Notice I didn't say, as most writers seem to these days, "a couple times." I don't know why or when people started dropping "of" when using the word "couple."  Just as I don't know why people now "graduate high school." Whatever happened to "graduate from high school?" But back to a happier topic.) Charlottesville seemed nice enough – I remember mountains in the distance and visiting Jefferson’s Monticello – but I didn’t see any sugar-sand beaches or palm trees. Maybe I missed them but I don't think so.

Rochester is in Minnesota, where the average annual temperature hovers around six degrees. The Naples area, on the other hand, exists in a state of perpetual summer but it's not overly hot during June, July and August as some northerners believe it must be. According to the National Weather Service, the temperature has never – not once in all the years they've been keeping records – reached 100 degrees. Surprised? Don't be. We're in the tropics. It never gets as hot here during the summer as it does in northern Florida or, for that matter, Boston. Don't ask me why. Ask Al Roker.

I didn’t know anything about Lafayette so I looked it up. The only thing I could find to commend it is that Lafayette is apparently home of the only remaining Borden’s Ice Cream outlet in America. The opportunity to pick up a quart of Elmer’s Butter Brickle for half price might be tempting to some but it wouldn’t be enough to make me move there. I have to watch my cholesterol anyway.

Whatever, I’m certainly happy I don’t live in one of America’s four most unhappy metro areas which are, in ascending order, South Bend, Ind., Erie, Pa., St. Joseph, Mo., and Scranton, Pa.

I can’t imagine a single reason anyone would willingly live in any of those places with the possible exception of South Bend, home of Notre Dame. If I were a Roman Catholic college football fan of Irish descent who liked to watch place kickers genuflect before attempting field goals, I’d probably think South Bend is swell.

All I know about Erie is that it is home of International Paper’s customer service center. IP was a client and whenever we called the CSC with a question, the people on the other end sounded nice and were helpful. If you’re bored one of these days, give them a call and ask the person who picks up to explain the differences between multipurpose and copy paper. You might learn something. And it would apparently brighten his or her otherwise unhappy life.  

St. Joseph, like Brigadoon, is a make-believe place. I grew up in Missouri. I spent four years at the University of Missouri, which attracts students from every little town in the state not to mention cities so populous they have whole metro areas named after them, like St. Louis, Kansas City and St. Joseph. My first job out of college was for the Missouri Division of Commerce and Economic Development where I interacted with people from almost every town in the state, including Peculiar and Foose. But I’ve yet to meet anyone from St. Joseph. I've never even heard of anyone who lived in St. Joseph or who knows anyone from St. Joe. I only know of one person, a high school friend who has lived in Missouri for 60 years, who has ever met someone from St. Joseph. For that matter, I only know one person who has ever even been to St. Joseph. (Right, Russ?) This same friend claims she has been to St. Joseph not once but twice but she is probably getting it mixed up with St. Louis or St. Genevieve or St. Charles or St. James. Two people who have read this post have written to say there is an actual town there. Maybe so but it contains no living people, only dead ones. Which is why, I suppose, they are so unhappy.

I stopped at a Wendy’s in Scranton years ago, ordered a bowl (actually, a paper container, probably made by International Paper) of chili and a small Diet Coke and I’m sure the server got my order right or I would have remembered because I hold grudges against companies that provide lousy service like the SCUMSUCKING VULTURE PIGS AT COMCAST WHO HAVE RUINED MY OTHERWISE HAPPY LIFE HERE IN THE NAPLES METRO AREA but I digress. From the Wendy's parking lot alongside the interstate, Scranton looked a bit down on its luck despite a beautiful natural setting in a valley. Plus it’s the hometown of Joe Biden. If that’s not a reason for residents to be unhappy or at the very least embarrassed, what is?

So, all in all, I have to say I'm happy with the results of the happiness survey.

While I’m not happy the Naples area wasn't rated the happiest metro area in America, I’m certainly happy I don’t live in a place like Scranton or St. Joseph which would make me unhappy because I'm one of those guys who needs to be happy all the time, so I'm happy I live where I do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Medallions of lizard in a pine reduction sauce over lice

The other night we were watching TV. I was checking email during a commercial break when I heard the announcer say, “Call 1-800-METH HEADS.”

“Did he just say '1-800-METH HEADS?'”  I asked my wife.

“That was 1-800-PET MEDS,” she replied, not even trying to conceal her disgust. “Get a hearing aid.”

She's told me to do that at least a thousand times. As much as it pains me to admit it, she’s right. I need one. Maybe two.

It’s genetic. My mother and brother wear hearing aids. Both grandmothers did, too. In my case the loss has been exacerbated by 45 years of listening through headphones to music cranked up to its highest possible volume. I’d have to guess a large percentage of my fellow Baby Boomers are in the same boat. It could be worse. I should probably be thankful I wasn’t a rock star who bounced around the stage at a trillion decibels. Can’t imagine what, if anything, Mick Jagger can hear. (I would have enjoyed the fame and fortune however.)

There’s nothing funny about losing one’s hearing but there are some funny moments when I repeat back what I think I just heard and find out I was wrong. Some of the more annoying aspects are being unable to understand servers in crowded restaurants (Tonight’s special is medallion of lizard in a pine reduction sauce served over lice); having to avoid soft-spoken people; missing phone calls  especially calls to your cell phone as you walk around a mall with your pants ringing and wonder why people are staring at you  and, when you finally connect, having to ask callers to repeat what they just said; and needing closed captions to understand what's happening on TV.

The pleasures of Inna Gadda DaVida at full blast weren’t worth it but it's too late.

I should swallow my pride and get a hearing aid but I want to wait until the industry comes out with one that’s invisible.

I hear one is going to be introduced soon.

But I probably heard wrong.