Published in the New York Times SundayReview
The other week I was riding crosstown in an Uber car, chatting with the very nice driver about how much I liked Uber, and the driver said, by way of being helpful, I believe, “You have a 4.5 rating. If it drops to 4.0, no driver will pick you up.”
At this time I had taken only six rides in an Uber. I had no idea I was being reviewed as a passenger. A perfect score is 5.0. What could I have done to get demoted .5? In six rides?
This set off serious soul-searching. Obsessing actually.
On one trip I took an Uber from Manhattan to Brooklyn on a Sunday. On weekends, subways are always announcing that they have changed their minds, they are not going here or there, and if you are lucky enough to understand the loudspeaker, you can make adjustments. Unless, like me, you visit Brooklyn but don’t know Brooklyn, and have no idea where you are, ever.
This is just to set the scene so you have sympathy for me.
On this ride we were stopped at a corner and told we couldn’t proceed to my destination down 11th Street because a movie was shooting. Only the movie wasn’t shooting. Nothing was happening. Nevertheless two people were blocking the street. I argued with them and got nowhere. Also I asked what they were shooting (or not shooting) and they said a short. I might have made a face. Not even a regular movie.
Perhaps the Uber driver was on the side of the moviemakers. Writing this now, I am on the side of the moviemakers. However, unlike me, the driver wasn’t scared of Brooklyn. He had shown me three possible 11th Streets in Brooklyn on his GPS. I was only guessing this was the one I was supposed to go to. I had no confidence about it and did not want to start strolling around and get stranded in Brooklyn. I do get short-tempered when I’m anxious.
On another Uber ride, the driver had parked down the block and I had asked him to back up to the front of my building because I had a large desktop computer in a cardboard box. How polite had I been? How rude?
On another trip I had barely spoken. Perhaps that was rude. Perhaps I simply am not a nice person and an Uber driver sensed it. Perhaps I had said, “Please take Fourth Avenue” in an arrogant way. Once, when I asked a speeding taxi driver to slow down, the driver said to my husband, “I have one of those at home.”
We are all being rated these days. Doctors, professors, cleaners, restaurants, the purse repair store I looked up on Yelp this morning. The app Lulu lets women rate the men they date. In Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center launched a pilot program that lets patients go online to read their therapists’ notes, which, in a way, is getting a rating from your shrink. I had no idea whether my therapist had ever taken notes except perhaps to jot down a name (who doesn’t have trouble remembering names?) or the details of one of my especially riveting dreams.
After reading about this study, I asked many friends about their therapy experiences, and they didn’t think their therapists took notes either. Several mentioned that if the therapist did take notes, they would never want to see the notes for fear the notes would say that they were boring. “Can’t shut up about his mother.” “Still obsessing about that breakup.” “A real complainer.” Presumably another therapist (just like another Uber driver) who was thinking of taking you on, could log on to the site (even though it’s secure — we all know how meaningful that is), and find out you are B-O-R-I-N-G. Your rating, in effect, is 4.0 or lower.
Once, after an appointment with a back doctor, I heard him dictating his notes about me: “patient was a pleasant middle-aged woman.” I was upset for days. “Middle-aged” was bad enough, but “pleasant?” That was one of the worst things I have ever been called.
Who wants to hear what anyone thinks of you? That’s why talking behind your back was invented. I avoid reading reviews of my books for fear I’ll never write another sentence, and now I realize I am in danger of being rated whenever I leave the house. Do restaurants review diners? “Complained that the chopped salad wasn’t chopped” — I’m sure my waiter at lunch recorded that about me just last week.
I have long been done with school. Nevertheless, it turns out, I am going to be getting report cards for the rest of my life. Remember your permanent record, as in “This is going on your permanent record.”
The web is now your permanent record. And everything is going on it.
published in the New York Times