Friday, March 01, 2013

Indiana Is NOT 2nd Most Depressing State

"Kid, I don't think I can take it any more," said Karl, closing his eyes and running a hand through his hair.

But we were having a good time, and now you're tired of it?

"No, not you, this," he said, waving an arm at the room.

What, you mean First Edition? Was Kurt watering down the rum again? We were sitting in the literary themed bar for Manly Mojito Night, celebrating Papa Hemingway's favorite drink, and lying to each other about our current book projects.

Karl shot me a look that somehow incorporated a middle finger without him ever raising a hand. "No, Indiana. I'm just so damn. . . tired. This place is depressing."

But you're one of Indiana's biggest supporters. You talk constantly about state trivia, you sent your kids to IU, and you've named your last three dogs 'Hoosier.'

"I know, Kid, I know. But I've been here for 64 years, and I'm getting tired of the cold, gray winters."

What brought all this on? I asked. Karl pulled a newspaper out of his coat pocket and whacked it on the bar.

"Here."

I read the headline out loud: 'Indiana Second Most Depressing State.' I yelled a word that rhymed with bull spit. Kurt the bartender cast a worried glance at me, and I signaled for two more mojitos. I skimmed through the article, while Karl continued.

"It says we're the second most depressing state in the country. Health Magazine compiled different health and mental health statistics, as well as economic factors, and found that we were second only to Arkansas."

What could be depressing about Indiana? I love this place. We've got great summers, gorgeous falls, and character-building winters. We've got every sport you could ever want, including the biggest auto race in the world. And we've got a literary and arts tradition that dates back to our earliest days. We're even going to turn 200 in three years. What more could you possibly want?

Karl stared at me for a few seconds, not saying a word. "I don't know, Kid. That's how depressed I am. I can't even think of a witty retort to that."

You must have been depressed for decades because I have yet to hear you make a witty retort.

He opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, and raised his palms up. "See?" he said.

This was bad. Even at his drunkest and most maudlin, I had never seen Karl like this.

"I think I have SAD," he said.

You mean, you are sad.

"No, not sad," he said, catching the lower case tone in my voice. "SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. It means I'm not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight, and so my energy levels and mood are very low."

That's easily fixed. Go to a tanning salon once a week, and get a bed with UV-B rays. Ten minutes, and you'll feel great. I know a lot of people who do it for the vitamin D.

"But what about the rest of the report? It says that we've got a sluggish economy, high unemployment, and massive budget shortfalls, which are having an impact on our mental health centers, and we've got a shortage of psychiatrists." He buried his head in his hands and sighed deeply. "No wonder we so depressed."

Karl, have you forgotten how to read a newspaper? Check this out. First, the article says the states are ranked in alphabetical order. We fall second behind Arkansas and ahead of Kentucky because of the alphabet. The odds of these ten states being depressing in alphabetical order are astronomical. That means we don't know our number. We could be the 41st state, and not the 49th.

Karl raised his head and looked at me. I continued.

Second, this headline, plus all the other headlines about the subject, keep talking about Indiana being a 'depressing' state. The correct term is 'depressed.' It means we're unhappy, morose, and just plain sad. To be 'depressing' means we cause sadness, which we do not do. We're not Rhode Island.

And lastly, our economic conditions aren't that bad. Our unemployment is on par with the national rate, we have a budget surplus of $2.15 billion, and we just increased education funding without raising taxes. So the 'economic outlook' of these reporters is incorrect. As far as I'm concerned, Indiana shouldn't even be on the list. We're doing fine, and those Health Magazine hacks can suck it.

Karl rubbed his eyes hard, and took a big drink of his mojito. "Kid, believe it or not, that actually helped. Thank you. I needed that."

You're welcome. You need to cheer up anyway. I just read a study that says pessimistic people live up to six years longer than their optimistic counterparts.

"Oh God, you mean this could go on longer?" he groaned.



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