Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 02.08.16
Stanstead, Quebec


Happy Days in Canada

According to a recent poll, two-thirds of Canadians are "pretty happy." This to me is the perfect Canadian answer. When you ask a Canadian "How are you?" nine times out of ten, the answer will be "pretty good." Not "great," not "lousy," not "get off my porch before I call the cops," but "pretty good." It's that kind of contained enthusiasm that has made Canada the mostly all right country it is today.

Canadians' other choices in the survey were "very happy" and "not too happy," as if miserable was out of the question. As if some form of happiness, even if it's only a glimmer, a spark, a soupcon of happiness, is a given if you're a Canadian, or at least a Canadian answering a survey. Because if you're answering a survey, chances are you have a phone, and if you have a phone, well, you haven't quite hit rock bottom yet, have you?

And who's to say that "not too happy" is a bad thing?

Who wants to be "too happy"? Your cheeks hurt from smiling all the time, you can't sleep, people start thinking you're on drugs. If you're too happy, you're probably not using all that happiness very efficiently. It's a waste of happy, being too happy. Settle down. Here: read this pamphlet on parliamentary reform.

This news came a week after we learned that Canada has been rated as the second-best country in the world, according to a survey released at the World Economic Forum. The #1 country was Germany, which surpassed Canada in terms of entrepreneurship, but that's only because we're pretty happy doing the jobs we've always had, thanks. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't let a beaver anywhere near it, those destructive beasts!

And of course there was that New York Times piece that declared Canada "hip." And an article in GQ India entitled "Canada is making the rest of us look bad." India, by the way, was ranked #22 in the country survey. Did I mention that Canada was also ranked #1 for seeking out flattering media reports no matter how obscure?

So, we're pretty happy, we're hip, we're #15 for adventure, whatever that means. (Probably we need more pirates.) All in all, Canada's a pretty good place to be.

But, of course, these are generalizations when you're talking about a country of nearly 10 million square kilometres and nearly 36 million people and nearly universal access to Wikipedia data. Not everyone is happy and not every place in Canada is good to live in and not every smouldering look I give is going to melt the ladies' hearts, although that's not really the issue here, a survey for another time, perhaps.

I'm a happy Canadian, but I'm not happy all the time. Sometimes I'm between "not too happy" and "pretty happy," a kind of "on the verge of happy." I'm sort of happy when I get a yogurt out of the fridge, for instance. But when I see that it's a Greek yogurt, then I'm a little less happy because there's a fine line between Greek yogurt and window caulking.

I'm happy my children are all safe, well-adjusted young people. But then the other day, one of them took a shower while watching cartoons on an iPad perched on a vanity with the sound blaring through a Bluetooth speaker, letting the water run and run. This made me unhappy for reasons I can't quite put my finger on other than it seeming really impractical and too loud and steamy. Maybe because it's been so long since I did anything loud and steamy myself.

Sometimes I get so not too happy that, like a lot of people, I look at my life and think, "I deserve better." But then I remember that people who think that should really ask themselves, "Do you really?"

Somewhere along the way we've come to feel entitled to happiness. If we're not deliriously happy all the time, we feel cheated or even broken. But, as with this huge country of diverse, strange and (let's be honest) only sporadically hip people, pure happiness comes and goes.

And that's okay. When you come right down to it, "pretty happy" is pretty good. Even better if you enjoy taking surveys.