Is Philly Really the Angriest City in America?

A new list puts us at the top. But it could all just be a big misunderstanding.

iStockphoto.com | f11photo

iStockphoto.com | f11photo

Listicles are, as a general rule, nothing to get too riled up about. Ever since Buzzfeed proved you could build an empire on the back of “17 Things You Won’t Believe Happened When A Porcupine Kitten Met Donald Trump,” the medium has proven to be clickbait gold, irresistible to writers in need of attention and pitches.

And so when Travel + Leisure declared Philly the fifth least attractive city, it was nothing personal — just another day on the Internet. Similarly, when Lonely Planet deemed us the No. 1 city to visit in the United States — followed by Natchez, Mississippi, which is apparently a real place — New York didn’t sweat it.

But Philly’s latest honor deserves a second look. Thrillist seems to think we have an anger problem, awarding Philly the top spot on its “11 Angriest Cities in America, Ranked by Irrationality” list. 

It’s not that they’re necessarily wrong. Even if you could scientifically rank the angriest cities in America, it’s still quite possible that we’d earn first place. As tired as the story is, we did, as this list points out, throw those infamous snowballs at Santa. The whole Pukemon thing was a bad look. Hitchhiking robots don’t make it out alive around these parts. Guilty, guilty and guilty as charged.

The thing is, Thrillist writers Kevin Alexander and Matt Lynch seem to base most of their opinion on this encounter in Boston:

The guy eyed him up and down while blowing smoke out the side of his mouth.

“Where you from?” he asked.

“Here,” Casey said, somewhat uneasily. “Boston.”

“Well,” the guy said, smiling in a twisted way. “I’m from somewhere better than youseee.”

Despite recognizing that he was now an unwilling participant in a rhetorical set-up, Casey played along: “Where?”

“Philly,” our man said, in a challenging proud voice. His eyes had a little bit of crazy in them. He looked like a combination of a wounded animal and Johnny Ringo in Tombstone when he finally decides he’s got to face off against Doc Holliday. He stood staring at Casey for a good 10 seconds, then flicked his cigarette at his feet and walked away.

Just then, the bouncer, who’d been watching this whole thing take place, let out a low whistle and spoke all of the truth.

“Man,” he said. “In Philly, you just come out angry.”

While this little exchange probably does sound angry to most of the country, in Philly, it’s the equivalent of polite small talk.

For the first two decades of my life, I thought my own sister was angry at me. Not the case. Stephanie is sweet and kind and lovely, but as is the way in the Northeast, she starts most sentences with a vaguely threatening “Listen” and ends them with a vaguely less-threatening, “youknowhatImean?” If you don’t speak the native tongue — and even if you do — you could be forgiven for thinking that she wanted to cause you serious bodily harm, not pick you up from work because it’s raining and you’ll catch cold waiting for the train.

I took me months in Fishtown to decipher between the Friendly Yell, the Neutral Yell and the Shit’s-About- to-Go-Down Yell. Even after spending a couple years there, I almost called the cops over what turned out to be just another neighborly, across-the-street “discussion.”

By the time I moved to South Philly, I mostly had things figured out. Regardless, was I a little intimidated the first couple times my neighbor growled, “You have a good day at work, all right?” Yes. But after a few months, I now know that this is a warm send-off, not the threat it can sound like to untrained ears.

What I’m saying, Kevin and Matt, is that this could all just be an understandable misunderstanding. Maybe, in light of this, you could be so kind as to review your rankings? And, if it’s not too much trouble, your remark about our “penchant for street festivals devolving into public urine and vomit competitions”? And, um, this alleged “insecurity when comparing themselves to NY that manifests itself as over-the-top bravado.” What’s all this about “an accent that sounds like someone threw a chainsaw into a trash fire filled with gravel”?!?

First of all, that’s Aqua Net fumes you’re detecting, not gravel, assholes. And come to think of it, maybe you’re right — maybe Philadelphians are exactly as irrationally angry as you think we are.

In the spirit of brotherly love, may I suggest a follow up piece? “11 Places Youse Can Shove Your Stupid Fucking List.” Listen — you need any help getting started, you let me know, alright?

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