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, June 06, 2008

What kind of country is this?

The words in the title are not my own, they are words I overheard the other day.

A few days ago, I was standing in a taxi rank behind three East European men of about 30. They had the air of recent visitors about them. Like them, I had waited perhaps 25 minutes to get to the front of the taxi rank, in Orchard. They were keen to get to their destination, since, rather than sit, they stood, all the while, and paced a little, talking among themselves in quick, hurried speech, of an unknown language.

Finally, they got to the front of the queue. The largest of the three men opened the taxi door and prepared to get in. The driver spoke to him, in words I couldn't hear - but their meaning was clear.

The large man said a destination.

The taxi driver who had been looking at him turned away, facing the front and prepared to drive off. The large East European man closed the door and watched the taxi pull away, empty.

The poor man was utterly dumbfounded: he just couldn't believe that, rather than take him and his two friends, to their destination, this taxi driver preferred to drive off, empty of passengers.

For the benefit of all to hear, the East European man spoke his first English, quite loudly: "What kind of country is this?"

It seemed obvious that he had never encountered such behaviour before, anywhere, in his life - otherwise he wouldn't have been so taken aback by it.

Singapore is a country in which strange practices abound - yet the locals see them as normal. In Singapore, taxi drivers choose where they want to go - and will often turn down a fare that is not going where the driver wants to go. In the twenty or so countries I have visited, this is the only one in which I have observed this behaviour: it is quite bizarre.

Yet, instead of permitting such crassness on the part of taxi drivers, perhaps Singapore should think about the impression it leaves on the millions of annual visitors. The behaviour of drivers snubbing passengers is so common that a visitor would not have to be here long, to encounter it. Many of the visitors can expect to be so snubbed on their visit. What impression does that leave? Well, the reaction of the East European man is telling: the typical visitor will be utterly unimpressed by Singapore if they are ill-treated in this manner. No doubt, that man and his friends will go back to Europe with tales of the crazy drivers and the unbelievable rudeness of Singaporean workers. Is that the impression Singapore wants to create?

A driver should not have the right to refuse a passenger. They should have to take anyone, anywhere, without any discretion over the matter at all. This should be enforced by steep fines and revocation of their license to drive. Then, perhaps, visitors like those East Europeans will not have tales to tell of rude Singaporean drivers when they go home.

(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 @ 8:58 PM 


Anonymous sya said...

Sadly, the same thing happen in Kuala Lumpur.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Syahidah and Valentine said...

Thanks Sya for your comment.

It shouldn't happen in either place. All that such inconsiderate "customer service" achieves is a reputation for rudeness that will be carried back around the world, with returning visitors. That doesn't do a nation good...

Kind regards

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason why cabbbies here has the right to refuse any fare is because they are their own employers.

Most cabbies rent the taxis from taxi companies. They are not employees. And the companies charge them upward of $90 in rentals a day. So obviously the cabbies will maximise their routes to make their own ends meet.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I can see your point here. I would like to mention that if drivers do not have an easy excuse to refuse passengers, this may compromise the safety of the drivers. One does get a sense from time to time that a stranger is NOT someone you want near you! Whether it be a person who is drunk and raving, or a person who wears ragged clothes and hasn't showered in a very long time, that stranger with a dangerous look in their eye, a person displaying symptoms of a serious psychological disorder, a verbally abusive person...

I think cab drivers should be able to refuse passengers, and they should have some easy excuse to do so.

Refusing them because they are not going to a particular destination does seem ridiculous to me as well, but I do wonder if maybe that is just their easy excuse to refuse passengers who freak them out.

- Kathy

12:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I understand, Kathy, the need for drivers to be able to refuse passengers for personal safety issues. That, however, isn't the issue in Singapore. Here, people are, almost exclusively, a timid bunch and not likely to pose a physical danger to anyone. Aggression between people is rather rare.

What is happening is that drivers here don't see themselves as a service. They seem themselves as people out to milk the people for money - so they pick routes and passengers with the highest benefit to themselves and simply don't take those that don't match their travel plans. It leads to very poor service and some terrible behaviour.

Kind regards

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Oh, I see, so they are always destining themselves to go to upscale neighborhoods in order to get more of the higher paying passengers or something like that?

If that is the case, then I wonder if they are motivated by greed or sheer necessity. Perhaps it is very difficult to make a living as a taxi driver in Singapore?

- Kathy

1:06 PM  
Blogger impy said...

I have been driving the past 5 years and have almost forgotten all this nonsense I used to take. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. :)

2:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for confirming the problems I write of, implicitly. I find that the ones who deny them or minimize them tend to be either taxi drivers or people connected to taxi drivers, or firms, in some way i.e. related. Everyone else who is more honest about it would admit that there are problems here.

Happy driving.

7:45 PM  

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