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 +

Monday, May 05, 2008

The passenger should be in control

In Singapore, taxi drivers pride themselves on their dishonesty. Or, at least they appear to. I have travelled quite widely (about 20 countries) but I cannot recall a nation of taxi drivers so prone to invent ways to increase their income at the expense of the passenger.

A case in point, minor as it might seem, is when the taxi stops. Ask yourself, how many times has the taxi driver refused to stop the meter at that moment - but then makes excuses to wait, by adjusting the mirror, fiddling with the steering, staring vacantly into space, or edging the car forward again, after stopping, all in the hope of nudging the meter up another 20 cents? If you have had the same experiences I have with taxi drivers then you would have to say that most drivers do this. Almost all drivers will try to wait or roll forward, to make the meter roll up another 20 cents.

Does 20 cents extra per journey matter? Well, it does if you add it up across a year. Many Singaporeans take at least two taxi journeys a day, some take four or more. However, let us look at 2 per day. That is 730 per year. That works out at $146 per year stolen from you by taxi drivers, simply because they cheat the fare by 20 cents at the end of every journey.

Today was an example of this kind. The taxi stopped. The meter didn't. The taxi driver started adjusting everything in sight. I told him: "Stop the meter". He didn't. He carried on adjusting. "Stop the meter". I said again. He didn't. He carried on adjusting - in sullen silence. "Stop the meter". I said. He didn't. Though he did stop moving. He just sat there, hoping the meter would suddenly tick over. It didn't. Finally, I said: "Stop the meter!" rather more insistently. Finally he reached slowly forward and stopped the meter. It hadn't rolled up despite his best effort. (It takes 45 seconds of waiting, I understand, or some extra distance - hence the rolling forward). Now, I don't know about you, but I find this taxi ritual irritating. It irritates me that I have, so often, to fight the driver to get him to stop the meter when he should. It shouldn't be like this. A change is needed. The passenger should be in control of the meter. Any passenger should have the right to reach over and stop the meter. In fact, I have been thinking about starting to do just that - to stop it myself, at the end of every journey. I wonder how that would go down?

Anyway, it would be good to see a special button in the back of every cab, that allowed the passenger to stop the meter - because $146 a year taxation on a typical Singaporean, by cab drivers, is a little too much. In fact, for many it would be much more. My family typically takes perhaps 4 cabs per day. That is $300 a year extra in unnecessary charges because almost all taxi drivers show this particular kind of dishonesty.

I suggest that people start stopping the meter, when the cab stops: just reach over and push that button. You really shouldn't wait until the driver gets around to it - it isn't fair on you. Or put it another way, do you really want to give taxi drivers an annual bonus of $146 out of your own pocket, as a reward for dishonesty?

I don't.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven 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, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 5:43 PM 


Blogger K2 said...

You won't believe it but I rarely get this sort of treatment. Very frankly, I think it has got to do with the colour of your skin. Taxi drivers view you as the "angmoh", the expatriate, the clueless one, so they use such lowly tricks on unsuspecting customers.

But when I do meet such a taxi driver, I'll just say "Ok, so that's $4.60" and give him the exact change. In this way, he can't resort to the rolling forward or adjusting mirror trick. Try it!

7:04 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks K2 for your comment. However, that it might have a racist foundation makes me feel even worse about it, not better!

The exact change tip is a good one, though. I will try it.

Kind regards

10:05 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

Creating a special button at the back of the cab might encourage dishonest behaviour among passengers instead - they might reach over and push that button long before the journey is over!

10:43 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

There is that possibility Miao - but I think the problem merits attention. It is rare for a passenger to try to cheat the cab driver of his fare, in any way, but it is very, very common, in Singapore at least, for the cab driver to try to cheat the customer. It happens on almost every cab journey I take. They are almost all essentially petty criminals. (In the sense that they steal small amounts of money from virtually every passenger they take).

I had a high opinion of black cab drivers in London...but I have a very low opinion of Singaporean drivers. Another thing: they often don't have a clue where anything is. It is ridiculous to call them taxi drivers, actually - because they have none of the basic qualifications expected, in other countries, of the breed (like knowing where you are going).

Of course, the Singaporean government will do nothing about it. The problems of dishonest drivers are problems for the "little people" you see...

11:10 AM  
Blogger Miao said...

The problems of dishonest drivers are problems for the "little people" you see...

This is a very incisive comment. The Singaporean government is the main reason why I want to migrate when I have the opportunity in future.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think a lot of people feel as you do, Miao. Singapore has one of the highest emigration rates on Earth - only active warzones beat it. Great stuff.

11:52 AM  

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