The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 24, 2013

If you’re happy and you know it, you’re wrong

Commentary By Adam Smith
adam@athensnews-courier.com

“So break out the bottle, bring on the crowd;

Tell funny stories, turn the jukebox up loud;

Come on sit at my table where the drinks are on me;

Just gather round me ‘cause misery loves company.”

— Porter Wagoner

Webster’s dictionary defines “miserable” as “being in a pitiable state of distress or unhappiness (as from want or shame); wretchedly inadequate or meager; causing extreme discomfort or unhappiness; and being likely to discredit or shame.”

It’s a pretty durable word we’re all familiar with. It can be an adjective, noun or even an adverb if used as “miserably.”

I bring up the topic of “misery” or being “miserable” because I am miserable. You’re miserable, too, but perhaps you’re not aware of it.

Collectively, you and I, dear reader, occupy the seventh-most miserable state of the Union. That’s according to the most recent Bloomberg Best survey, which rated the most miserable states. We are seventh. I’m just happy not to be living in Louisiana because those poor saps are the most miserable. That is, again, according to the Bloomberg survey.

Just in case you’re wondering, our misery score (out of 100 points) is 65.01. If we were in school, that would be a “D” average. And everyone knows that “D” equals diploma, right?

So what makes us so miserable? Our air pollution rate is at 11 percent. (Thanks, Birmingham.) Our child poverty rate is 21.6 percent. (Pretty bad, I must admit.) Our high school graduation rate is 69.9 percent (Deplorable!) Our infant mortality rate is 8.9 percent, per 1,000 births. (Downright depressing.)

With statistics like that, I guess it’s no wonder Bloomberg thinks we’re so miserable. Jeez, anybody got a gun, knife or noose I can use on myself? Perhaps I’ll just drive a dynamite and rum-filled convertible Cadillac off Red Mountain in Birmingham. That’s how gonzo author Hunter S. Thompson once claimed he wanted to die.

If it was good enough for him, it’s certainly good enough for me. Certainly wouldn’t do anything to help that air pollution rate, however.

Funny thing about Bloomberg, though. It’s headquartered in the Bloomberg Tower, located at 731 Lexington Ave., “in the heart of New York City.” That’s according to Bloomberg’s website, and just for your information should you want to pop by or write those Yankee elitists a letter.

After looking at the survey statistics, I was a little confounded to see that eight of the most miserable 10 states were what I would consider Southern states. After first-place Louisiana, you’ve got Mississippi (2), Arkansas (3), West Virginia (4), South Carolina (6), Alabama (7) Tennessee (9) and Kentucky (10).

The other two states on the top 10 were New Mexico (5) and Nevada (8). I guess Nevadans aren’t as miserable as Alabamians because they have legalized prostitution and gambling.

Thinking about all this misery has really made me miserable. Surely there must be something Alabamians can feel proud of. But what could it be?

Could it be our rich natural resources? Our cuisine? Our championship college football team(s)? Our spring and fall seasons? Our manners? Our unflinching devotion to God and country? The fact that you can drive from the majestic beauty of Mentone to the sandy white beaches of Gulf Shores in six hours or less?

Are these all things that can really offset our misery? You bet your sweet potato pie they are.

Granted, Alabamians — like people in any other state — wake up on the wrong side of bed some mornings. That doesn’t make us miserable 100 percent of the time. Oops, 65.01 percent of the time.

I’d like for whatever jerkface joker who put this list together to come on down to Alabama for a day or two. I’d be happy — not miserable — to show him or her around, just so he/she can see just how miserable we are. As Porter sang, misery loves company.

I’ll even rent a convertible Cadillac that may or may not have a trunk full of dynamite and rum. (Shhh. It will be our little secret).

— Managing editor and miserable Alabamian Adam Smith can be reached at adam@athensnews-courier.com.