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“Hey, my name is Pen. I’ve been traveling around the Bay Area asking people what makes them mad and what they’re doing to fix it. May I interview you?”

I recited this phrase, or some variation thereof, so many times on Wednesday Nov. 11, 2015, it started to lose meaning. Twelve hours of riding around on public transportation asking the same question to people — and even more time asking it to myself. It reminded me of that one day I said the word "spoon" a million times and ended up thinking: Why in the hell did they call it that in the first place? What does it really mean? What does it all really mean!?!

At one point, I got mad at the question. At another point, I got angry with the premise of the project I was working on.


These are some of the folks I met. All photos by Pen Harshaw, used with permission.

The distance traveled pissed me off. The time it took to conduct the interviews annoyed me. The technology I was using made me frustrated a couple of times. And the people who wouldn’t speak to me — especially those who shut me down before I could fully state the aforementioned phrase — gave me the greatest inspiration to be mad.

This project started out of genuine curiosity. I wanted to know what makes people mad and what could be done to fix it?

Prior to pestering people on public transportation, I posed a question to myself.

I don’t like injustice, police brutality, lack of resources in "third world countries," the term "third world country," student loans — oh man, do I despise those! I don’t like when people put recycling in the trash, I hate prisons, and I’m disgusted by slavery. The line at the DMV perturbs me. Speaking of lines: my receding hairline? I’m not a fan. Oh, and when the toilet seat doesn’t stay up as I’m taking a piss — it makes me want to shake my fist at the sky.

I hate it when people are mean to each other for no reason at all. C’mon, we already have to deal with systems of oppression and glitchy technology, and then you run into a rude person on the subway who just needs to let their anger out on someone — and you happen to be that someone. That’s uncalled for.

These are all things that could make me mad, but I choose not to let them. I’ve read articles about happiness being a choice, and I believe that anger is a choice as well. Instead of getting mad, I get motivated. I choose to take that energy and use it to change the situation. If I can’t change it, I don’t trip.

So, that line at the DMV, the glitchy technology, and that vanishing hairline — I let those be. But the institution of prison, student loans, and the rude person on the train — I fight those with my words.

After gaining this understanding about myself, though, I wanted to know: What makes other people angry? I wanted to travel Bay Area public transportation for 12 hours interviewing people about human concerns and resolutions. I wanted to listen to them.

So that's what I did.

At the end of the daylong experiment, I sat in the Chipotle up the block from the Ferry Building on Market Street in San Francisco, filing my final interviews.

The results:

A 15-year-old African-American boy blew my mind when he said that some black people make him mad — “the ghetto ones.”

A cab driver from Pittsburgh caught me off guard when he candidly let me know that self-medicating was the solution to his anger.

Tom, the cab driver, told me: "I try not to get too mad lately. I try to think positive, stay positive, and have good thoughts. Sometimes I still get mad, but I try not to focus on it. If do get mad, it’s at pain; my body hurts a lot, but it’s getting better."

A 79-year-old French woman waiting at a bus stop in Richmond explained that she lives by herself and doesn’t get mad at herself; hence, she is happy. And I believe her.

And then there was 26-year-old Tommy Cross who explained, on his way to work, that the lack of opportunities for those who need them most is what pisses him off.

Tommy works in education, he told me, where he combats this struggle every day.

In the end, I conducted 28 interviews on the record, and many others off the record.

But the folks I spoke to in person were only part of the story. People all over the world also responded to my initial Medium post with vivid, sometimes emotional, accounts of what makes them mad, from drivers failing to stop for the disabled to the ugly fissures in Silicon Valley.

Some wrote about feeling powerless; others condemned senseless acts of violence. One woman opened up about the danger she faces taking public transportation at night.

There were a lot that I did not see coming: war in Yemen and pigeons in the Mission.

Two teens named Hoods and Jetz told me that pebbles in the street make them mad; they can deal with the unwarranted filming and scooter kids, but the pebbles — there’s nothing they can do about those.

Adyson is 16. What makes him mad? "When they say stuff without thinking and when they want attention! It’s aggravating. It gets me really mad. C’mon man, you’re embarrassing yourself!"

I was humbled by Reese, a 31-year-old musician and audio engineer, who told me that he gets upset when people aren’t chasing their true purpose, their dream — a selfless concern if I’ve ever heard one.

I laughed at the fact that just about every person between the ages of 15 and 32 said they don’t like liars, posers, misconceptions of the truth, or stereotypes.

I laughed because that’s the “digital native” generation — a group that has seen massive amounts of lies and misinformation from individuals and institutions come across their computer screens, phones, and televisions since they were born.

William, age 37, told me that liars made him mad. "Just a bunch of liars  —  lying. I don’t like it."

Being a product of that generation, I understand. When I turned their responses around, asking them if they ever lie or cheat, every single person admitted to the same offenses.

I understand this too. I tell a lie every now and then. I’m not proud of it, but I’m human.

And in the end, that’s what this project brought to light: We’re all human. With human concerns. And human reactions.

While approaching people at random, I noticed something: Most people’s first instinct was to acknowledge the anger caused by the actions of other humans. This was surprising — I had expected people to name some of the bigger, overarching problems facing our society today: income inequality, San Francisco’s tech bubble, police brutality, public transportation, the city’s housing crisis.

But instead, a large majority of folks commented on their relationships, their emotions, and their feelings. More often than not, people told me about being lied to or betrayed by a trusted “friend.” A number of people in customer service roles discussed “how to deal with people.”

There was the woman who didn’t like when people litter.

There was the guy who didn’t like people talking behind his back.

There was Kathy, who gets annoyed by the homeless folks who camp out in her coffee shop:

And Carlos, who gets mad when people ask him where the bathroom is.

The skater kids were mad at the scooter kids; other teens were frustrated by people who don’t listen, people who don’t pay attention, fake people.

The common thread was that we get angry about how people treat people.

People. That’s the root of other people’s anger. So what are people going to do about it? That’s a question for all of us.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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