The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, January 18, 2008

A tale of two taxi drivers

Singapore's taxi drivers are famous for many things: for disappearing when you just need them, so that you will be forced to call them out; for taking circuitous routes whenever they think they can get away with it - and for simply not knowing where they are going in one of the world's geographically simplest cities.

I wish to add two more things they should be known for, so that those who come to take a cab, when they have to, might look out for them.

Today we had an early birthday party for Tiarnan. It was at Orchid Country Club. There was no other way to get there, except by cab - so we broke our "no cab" rule, and took a cab there and a cab back.

I found the behaviour of the drivers quite surprising, given the fact that fares have already risen excessively.

The outward bound cab: SHA 3666J, already had the metre running before we got in. It showed 3 dollars on the metre. It should have showed $2.80, so it had been running long enough to have rolled up already. It wasn't the quantum of the deceit that annoyed me, it was the fact he would try to do this, even though the fares have already risen dramatically. It was the principle that a price is a price, and nothing should be done to inflate it.

I confronted him as he got out to see to a problem with the boot.

"Why was the metre running before we got in?"


"Why was the metre running before we got in?"

"Sorry, I no understand English."

"You understand metre:" his face registered the word, "why is the metre running?"

"OK, OK."

When we got in, he seemed to adjust the metre as if to restart it. He didn't seem to know how to use it and had great trouble adjusting it.

After he had finished fiddling with it, it still showed a sum above the starting fare. He hadn't changed it at all.

Communicating with him was such a struggle - and he was so clearly not going to be honest about it, that I gave up and resolved to complain later.

The driver on the way home tried another trick: one that was almost funny to watch, so farcical was it. His cab was SHA 4441J.

When we stopped at our house, he didn't stop the metre. He fiddled with the gear stick. He adjusted the steering. He looked at the metre. It still hadn't changed. So he fiddled with his ignition key. It still hadn't changed. So, then he looked out of the window, into the distance, as if struck by a great thought that needed attention. (No doubt it went a bit like this: "I must get that extra 20 cents.")

So, I told him: "Stop the metre."

He didn't. He just waited.

"Stop the metre."

He didn't. He just waited.

"Stop the metre...don't take six hours to do so, like all the other drivers!"

Finally, he reached out very slowly, to stop the metre. No doubt he hoped it would change before his finger touched the key.

He said nothing. He didn't acknowledge his intent. Except in his face: that seemed to say..."This passenger is cheating me out of my fair, traditionally entitled, overcharge!"

I haven't taken a cab in a very long time. In fact, it is at least a couple of weeks since I last took one. The new fares struck me as unfair, so I gave taxis up, as a bad habit. They are a bit like cigarettes - only they cause a cancer of the pocket.

Now that I have sampled the new service, I can say that the drivers are behaving even more dishonestly than before. They are not satisfied with fares that can mean a doubling of the charges. They have to try to squeeze more out of every passenger. Maybe this is because there are fewer passengers.

So, if you take a cab, check that the meter does not start until you actually board. Often the meter will already have been running for a while. When you get to your destination, note whether the driver has stopped the meter. Often they won't - they will distract you until the fare has suitably increased. Some of them never stop it all and will just bill you the highest amount it reaches before you manage to get out of the cab.

It seems as if taking cabs are now even more fun than they used to be. It is now a battle of the wits between driver and passenger: the driver trying every ruse he can to secure a higher fare, the passenger trying his or her best not to get ripped off. I suppose that is called public entertainment.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and six months, and Tiarnan, twenty-three months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

You'd think they would be satisfied with official robbery, without adding a little private robbery of their own.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:10 PM 


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