It’s the pessimists, not the meek that will inherit the earth

Our latest column by William Thomas

Asbestos, Quebec is changing its name to dissociate itself from all the deadly illnesses it’s open-pit mining caused. The people of Asbestos have reason to be pessimistic. In Haight, California, Haight Elementary School just changed its name to Love Elementary. Haight was pretty pessimistic until it was rescued by Love.

But neither Asbestos or Haight can hold a candle, likely a damp and unlit candle, to Puolanka, Finland. Even residents of this small town in the middle of the country agreed it was just a down-trodden, lousy place to live where nothing ever went right. The people became jealous of other nearby towns that were hosting successful social and tourist events drawing visitors and their money. Joy in Puolanka had become that warm, fuzzy feeling a local got after not being hit by a car.

“Nothing works out in Puolanka. Not even pessimism. What’s the use?” lamented one long-time resident. And thus was born Puolanka’s sad community theme as well as its exceptionally bright future.

The roadside sign a few kilometers before Puolanka used to read: “Soon Puolanka. You’ve still got time to turn around.” A sign closer to the town read: “Puolanka. You’re invited to not visit.” Now the sign that best suits this gloom-ridden hamlet of 2,600 depressed people reads: “Puolanka: Finland’s Best Worse Dying Town.” Wow! What a makeover, from bleak black to a lighter shade of despair.

With a pharmacy, a gas station, one restaurant and a couple of grocery stores, Puolanka didn’t offer much to warrant visitors. Hell, they didn’t even offer much to its residents. Then the people of Puolanka organized an “Evening of Pessimism” so they could at least feel sorry for themselves. Instead of an entry fee for the event, participants had to pay an exit fee. And instead of normal salutations like: “Hello” and “How are you?”, these glum and glummer Finn’s greeted each other with “Oh, I see you’re still alive.”

That first pathetic pitty party was such a huge hit, more get-togethers were planned and a musical band called “Trauma Group” was formed. (Apparently, the name “Deadbeat Downcast Bastards” was already taken.)

Now, after some excellent networking by the Puolanka Pessimist Association, officially the most negative place on the planet is hosting music festivals and attitude conferences. Emboldened, they hired Tommi Rajala as the Executive Director of the PPA to market the town internationally. No advertising campaign necessary, he just had to highlight Puolanka’s pathetic position in the world. And man, did he do a great job! In short order, he took the town to new heights of despondency. His online video “On A Tour Of Puolanka” featuring very dark humour got a half a million hits. They even have an online retail shop where they sell pessimistic souvenirs like “Grumpy Old Man” and “Difficult Hag.” Black humour products are flying out the window which in Puolanka is all fogged up and cracked.

Then the town got into the matchmaking business because Puolanka has way more men than women. They set up a Tinder dating service and in keeping with the original theme “Nothing works out in Puolanka,” 22-year-old Antti Ryynanen got matched up with his mother!

Said Antti: “The only woman to meet in Puolanka is your own mother.” How bloody depressing is that?

A new public space is being built devoted to the meditation of serious pessimism. Mayor Harri Peltora believes that the population of Puolanka could double due to its new and optimistic take on being chronically negative. Yes, Puolanka, Finland is on the top of the world which in and of itself has become a very depressing place.

The other thriving towns around Puolanka occasionally entertain big community enhancement dreams that fail, leaving the townsfolk disillusioned. While in Puolanka, when the creative pessimists come up with yet another hair-brained scheme that falls flat on its face–the residents are ecstatic. And then very quickly…depressed again.

Folks, there’s something strange and uplifting going on here. According to the 2019 Happiness Report, Finland was listed as the happiest country in the world, well above Denmark, Norway and Iceland. Why? Very low expectations. Finland is definitely not buying those glitz and glam marketing schemes of North American lifestyles where kids are depressed because they’re not famous and adults are obsessed with their weight.

Turvy turned topsy, a young boy from Newfoundland, devastated that none of his friends showed up at his birthday party, is flown to Toronto along with his parents to celebrate with his beloved Maple Leafs. It will be the highlight of his life.

Zippy Chippy, the horse who lost 100 races and the subject of my last book, is today so popular and selling so many personalized souvenirs, he’s now helping to support 22 other thoroughbreds on that retirement farm…and they did win races.

Either the world is easing into the Age of the Underdog or people are finally shedding the guilt of not being able to live up to the unrealistic images American corporations and their ad campaigns have created in order to sell their products. Are we starting to feel contentment or perhaps even pride in who we really are?

Note to guys drinking the kool-aid of TV advertising: you can buy a basement full of that brand of beer and you’re still not going to get the girl in the commercial. She’s NHL. You’re Bush League Lite.

To buy a book or invite humorist William Thomas to be your guest speaker, go to www.williamthomas.ca