Who are the happiest people you’ll see on the streets of Leaside?
Right away we can rule out certain groups — everyone going to work, everyone coming home from work, and almost everyone at work in the neighbourhood. They all look grim and focussed, or grim and tired.
The tradesmen who are tearing down and rebuilding our community, and often seem to outnumber the residents, seem to exist in a world of their own, and are mostly oblivious to all other street life.
Too many joggers are the same. They may well be happy, indeed high on endorphins, but their faces don’t show it. They’re maybe looking inwards, maybe hurting outwards, maybe mentally bopping to whatever is blasting in their headphones.
Actually hardly anyone equipped with headphones, earphones, smart phones, or other electronic devices ever looks happy. This rules out many of the teenagers we see.
A pack of teens without devices may well be deliriously happy as they generate high-decibal chatter — far too happy if they’re doing this at 2 a.m. — but their world stops completely at the boundary of their group. Nothing exists outside of it; the last thing that interests them is sharing any emotion with old folk, especially strangers.
One of the sad realities of our time is that most little children are well and properly programmed to project suspicion of or indifference to strangers crossing their path. It’s lovely to be waved at or greeted by smiling toddlers, innocently open to the whole world. They’ll soon change.
Mothers with newborns and other little ones often radiate happiness and are happy to share their joy. But at least as often the moms seem harried, worried, tired.
Nannies’ emotions seem to range from very pleasant cheerfulness — they’re liking their jobs — to the deep boredom and perhaps loneliness of the culturally estranged. Dog-owners and paid dog-walkers fall into exactly the same categories.
One very positive change in recent years, I contend, is the increased friendliness of (a) postal workers; (b) trash collectors; (c) couriers; (d) TTC operators. I’m not sure why this is so — if it’s a union ploy then good for the unions — and notice that it doesn’t extend to taxi drivers.
A few weeks ago there was a possible case to be made that Leasiders with cheerful Re-Elect Parker signs on their lawns were a happier lot than the malcontents with the black Burnside signs.
But then, presto, on Oct. 27 that all got reversed. Take note councillor: the lesson is that everything to do with political happiness is ephemeral.
It was on a recent Saturday morning when I encountered absolute, unconditional happiness. A four-year old was walking along Broadway with a lovely new stuffed dragon in one hand and holding on to his grandad with the other. Both the boy and the grandad, total strangers to me, beamed at me.
Yes, of course. Without doubt the happiest people in Leaside, invariably happy and happy to show and share their happiness, are grandparents out with their grandchildren. They’re all, always beaming.
It’s one of the axioms of life: grandparents are naturally happier than parents; children are naturally happiest when they’re with their grandparents.
I have four grandchildren, but am completely unbiased in reaching this conclusion.