Einz, Zwei, Drei...Laughensie

You vill laugh now. Nein? Okay zen, ve vill try to laugh togezer. Open ze mouth, push air out. Yell at ze person who made you mad today, and zen, vile yelling, try to smile. Now you are halfway to laughing. Das ist gut! That is gut for today. See you tomorrow.

How did that seem to you? I'm thinking of applying for a job as a Professor of Laughter--only problem is I'd have to relocate to Germany, where a laugh institute just opened up. Apparently Germans and happiness don't naturally go together.

According to a 2005 health survey published this week by DAK, a German health insurer, the number of people diagnosed with depression in Berlin has risen 70 percent since 1997.

A study of 90,000 working Berliners revealed that while 10 percent fewer people took sick leave from work in the past year, some 12 percent of those who stayed home did so because they were suffering from depression and panic attacks. Mental problems are therefore the top reason for absence from work, well ahead of other health issues.

Ahhhh yes, Germany. This story takes me back to the summer of 1989, when a young Laura Swisher traipsed through Europe visiting all her foreign acquaintances, from Spain to Holland to...okay, maybe it was just Holland and Germany. I don't recall. Anyway, I definitely remember traipsing. Germany comprised the first leg of my lil' vacation. I flew into Frankfurt where I didn't know a soul, and the German people welcomed me to their country the way Americans welcome mimes on our streets--with suspicion and a hint of disdain. So, yeah, a laugh school would probably help.

The point I'm really trying to make is that I went to Berlin the last summer before the infamous wall came down. And I visited East Berlin, on the other side of the wall, and paddled in a boat on a stream/river with East Germans, along with my West German friend, Sabine. They were cool, the East Germans. My friend was borderline cool, but being German she couldn't completely unwind and have a good time. And by "have a good time" I mean she refused to do heroin with me and go on a wilding spree in the park. I kid. Women can't wild.

After Germany (Berlin & Bielifeld) I headed to gay Paris and ended up hanging out with Italians. A Moroccan man tried to seduce me on the metro. An old man on the sidewalk smiled at me and said, "Quelle cherchez vous?", or something like that, when I was reading a map. What are you looking for? And he gave me directions.

Now my point is that there are more smiles in France than in Germany. And if I were to go on to describe my hot summer nights in Sardinia, I'd have to say there were more smiles there than in Paris or all of Germany. I met a boy, sweet as can be. We went strolling, drank lemonade. Oh...those Sardinian nights.

Did any of this make sense? Probably not.