Where is “Hell’s Kitchen” and how did it get the name?

Like too many all of life’s crucial questions, there’s no definitive answer to either the where or the how, but there are many theories, all of which have some a degree of truth to them.

Hell's Kitchen boundaries
Maybe I should have made the boundary lines more blurry.

The easiest one is the where. There is definitely a place that is officially “Googley” named Hell’s Kitchen, because you can see it labeled right there in Google Maps. (Anyplace that wants to be a place must first be placed on Google Maps.)

Hell’s Kitchen is generally considered to refer to the area from 34th to 59th Streets, starting west of Eighth Avenue and north of 43rd Street. City zoning regulations generally limit buildings to six stories; therefore most of the buildings are older walk-up apartments.

As for how this neighborhood came to be known as Hell’s Kitchen, according to the Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area:

When, in 1835, Davy Crockett said, “In my part of the country, when you meet an Irishman, you find a first-rate gentleman; but these are worse than savages; they are too mean to swab hell’s kitchen.” He was referring to the Five Points.

An article published by Mary Clark in 1994, published in the New York Times stated:

…first appeared in print on September 22, 1881 when a New York Times reporter went to the West 30s with a police guide to get details of a multiple murder there. He referred to a particularly infamous tenement at 39th Street and Tenth Avenue as “Hell’s Kitchen” and said that the entire section was “probably the lowest and filthiest in the city.” According to this version, 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues became known as Hell’s Kitchen and the name was later expanded to the surrounding streets. Another version ascribes the name’s origins to a German restaurant in the area known as Heil’s Kitchen, after its proprietors. But the most common version traces it to the story of “Dutch Fred the Cop”, a veteran policeman, who with his rookie partner, was watching a small riot on West 39th Street near Tenth Avenue. The rookie is supposed to have said, “This place is hell itself”, to which Fred replied, “Hell’s a mild climate. This is Hell’s Kitchen.”

Movie Review – The Kitchen

Stuber vs Uber – Welcome to the Ratings Game, in Real Life

stuber movie dave bautista
You WILL drive Drax the Destroyer anywhere he wants to go.

Well, it’s official. We’ve had an action movie about Uber driving. I suppose the next film will be a thriller about a couple in for trouble at an Air BnB. 🙂

It’s a sign of the times for sure. I’ve been using Uber almost exclusively to get to movies for RunPee every week for more than a year, and I think I know the system pretty well. However, there’s always new things to learn about being a good Uber passenger, and interesting ways drivers try to earn a coveted five star rating.

In Stuber, an Uber driver named Stu is essentially kidnapped by a policeman to drive him around to crime scenes and…ahem…learn to shoot at perps. I won’t give any more away, but it’s kind of a fun film, if a bit surreal. I mean, why doesn’t Stu just get out of there? It’s his (leased) car. And Stuber’s an action film…so do you think his nice electric Uber vehicle will get munched? You can answer this if you’ve ever seen an action flick. I think the police force owes him big time.

Furthermore, poor Stu has his precious rating held over his head if he won’t drive Dave Bautista to dangerous stakeouts. The police will owe him for his livelihood too, I think, by the end of the film.

I have to say, I really feel for these Uber drivers in real life. Did you know they get summarily FIRED if their rating drops below 4.5? I think that’s insane. Let me explain.

I used to review for Amazon Vine and reached the Top 250 Reviewer level. That takes some work.

My system for rating Amazon items was like this:

Five Stars: An outstanding product in almost every way

Four Stars: A great product I could recommend, with a few caveats

Three Stars: A good product, average

Two Stars: The item is fair, but isn’t awful, buy with caution

One Star: Poor Product, awful, don’t buy

By this system, roughly correlating to an A, B, C, D, and F, my readers could trust I was giving a thoughtful, critical review. However, in Uber-land, a 4 star rating is considered a fail. This doesn’t make any sense to me.

Rating Uber Drivers – why you should care that this sucks

Should I give an Uber driver 5 stars just because they didn’t kill me on the road? Apparently, the answer is yes. By my standards, I was getting people fired by rating them 4 stars. I only learned this recently. I find this astonishing.

Let’s look at movies. I review hundreds of movies for RunPee and use the same rating system I gave above for Amazon products. I’m not going to give an A to every film that made it to the end without being dreadful. Would you? I wouldn’t trust a reviewer who couldn’t critique freely.

But with the new economy, you’re a bad consumer if you don’t automatically give five stars to your Uber driver. And after talking to a lot of drivers, and after watching Stuber, I now understand what kind of pressure they’re under.

(BTW, to get another look at how terrible the tyranny of this rating system is, watch Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode. We’re on our way there now. If our “personal rating” falls under the four star level, we won’t even get basic human services…but that’s another article. Just watch Nosedive: trust. It’s on Amazon. And I’m not paid to tell you that.)

So how do drivers try to get a consistent 5 Star Rating?

In Stuber, Stu has a vanity plate reading FiveStar. He goes out of his way to provide the best level of service. He’s got free bottles of water and classy chocolates, offers musical choices, arranges the car temperatures, and tries to make pleasant conversation with every passenger. People crowd into his car, make him wait while they do errands, vomit on his seats when drunk, and say offensive things. Apparently, a lot of people are entitled jerks. I’ve talked to enough Uber drivers to get an idea about the reality they face.

And although I’ve been offered water bottles, gum, and lifesavers, I’ve never seen a driver with chocolates, or had anyone offer to change their music station. As a rational person, I don’t expect these things. (I did get some beads over mardi-gras season. Which was totally cool.)

These are the things I’ve learned being an Uber passenger:

  • Never fiddle with someone’s stereo/heat/mirror settings, or use their sockets to charge your phone without asking.
  • Don’t leave garbage.
  • Don’t eat or drink in their car.
  • If you want to chat with the driver, sit in the front. If you want to be silent and use your phone, sit in the back. (I’ll admit I sit in the front all the time and don’t want to talk. Somehow I can’t change this. I hate the back seat — to me that’s where children sit. But I don’t want to talk either. This is my problem, but now I know it exists. I’ve had some very interesting conversations sitting up front.)
  • If you’re at the airport, the ride is going to cost more (airports have fees). This sucks, but it’s still cheaper than a taxi. That said, be careful with your luggage. The drivers are using their own cars and you don’t want to scratch up their backseats or trunks.
  • The drivers will pick you up if you’re intoxicated, which is great for keeping drunks off the road. But. If you think you’re going to vomit, tell them to pull over. Please don’t ever puke in someone’s private car.
  • If you choose Uber Pool, that means others will get in the car with you, you might get dropped off last, and the ride might go far away from your destination to get you home. That’s why it’s the cheaper option.

The Most Important Advice

  • As Wil Wheaton says as his internet motto: Don’t Be A Dick. He used to be Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he knows about dick behavior. Just be nice, or at least quiet, on your ride. Then go for a solid run or play a video game later to work off your frustrations. This is a good lesson for life.  🙂

The Tyranny of The Ratings Game

FYI: If you’re a bad passenger, you will get a bad ‘rider’ rating. Enough of these can get you turned down for pickups, but this doesn’t really equate to getting no rides, since if a driver turns down enough riders, they get censured. So, you’re going to get a ride almost no matter what. Really, the power is all in the hands of the rider, for better or worse.

I’ll freely admit I think this demand economy is problematic. It’s too easy to hold the fear of a bad rating over someone’s head to demand concessions and freebies, and get away with generally obnoxious behavior.

After ten years of running RunPee — a highly popular, world-renowned movie app — we’ve seen firsthand how personally frustrating it can be to get a knee-jerk one-star rating from someone who never bothered to learn how our app works, or send a support email to have a question answered. Are you confused? Do you not like your service? Reach out and explain. You might be surprised by the human kindness you receive on the other end of your maturely worded email. (BTW, our contact info is [email protected])

As for Uber, yes, sometimes things don’t go right. Your ride doesn’t show. You are too lost to explain where you are to the driver and the GPS is wonky. You miss your plane or get charged for a toll you didn’t plan for. I can tell you from experience that Uber will make it right and give you a little extra credit, if warranted. All you have to do is email customer service. They’re pretty responsive.

But what to do about Ratings?

Is the answer to give a 5 star rating to everything? No. I honestly think companies like Uber need to grow up and realize the equivalent of a B is a good grade, not a fail. Somehow, I’m supposed to give top marks to everyone who drives me from point A to point B without incident.

But, I don’t want to get Uber drivers fired, either. So the only kind thing is to give out all the stars, every time, unless a I have a damn good reason.

I’d love to tell Uber how unrealistic this all is, but this seems to be the way things are headed. In the meantime, I advise people to be considerate where they can, and follow customer service channels for complaints otherwise.

Rating Stuber, the Movie

And BTW: I have to give Stuber (the movie) a C+ rating…or maybe a B- if I’m feeling generous. And, yes I enjoyed it! It’s not a great film, but I smiled a few times and wasn’t bored. Does that mean it automatically gets an A grade?

Well, no. I don’t give out A ratings often. I save that for the likes of Titanic, Avatar, Jurassic Park, Into the Spider-Verse, or Avengers: Endgame. But in real life, it’s increasingly beholden on us to hand out the high scores for average service. I’ll be interested to see how this goes in the next decade.

What do you think? The comment section is below, and if you don’t give this article a 5 star rating, I promise I won’t be upset. 🙂

Movie Review – Stuber

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