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 +

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Another great Singaporean Taxi Driver.

Today, we had another great Singaporean taxi driver experience. It was just the kind of experience that you hope visitors don't run into.

We booked a cab around lunchtime. After about five minutes the phone rang to announce that the cab, SHB 2214 (and one letter I didn't notice...I think a B, on the end, but can't be sure), had arrived. We got our things together and went down after a couple of minutes.

When we got into the cab, my wife noticed that the meter had obviously been running for awhile, since it had clocked beyond the starting point.

"Why has the meter been running, before we got in?", she asked, quietly of the driver who hadn't turned to look at us.

"I can start it when I call you.", he snapped, a little too forcefully.

"No you can't. That's against the rules." I countered, firmly.

"Why you take SO long, huh?", he said, his voice rising even further.

"We sometimes have to wait a long time for a cab.", Syahidah pointed out.

"Never mind sometimes," he began, attacking each word, "I was here early."

"I am not comfortable...", Syahidah began.

"Yes. Let's find another driver who is not such a jerk.", I continued.

We all got out.

I went back home to call another cab. I tried another company, at first -but they had no cabs. So, I had to resort to trying Comfort Delgro again.

The cab booking came through very quickly - as soon as I had put the request in. "SHB 2214..." said the booking service. I recognized his cab number at once. It was very clear what he was doing: he was blocking my desire to get another cab by picking up the booking himself, as soon as it appeared. (I later found out from my wife that he didn't drive away, he just parked up, very near our home, waiting for me to call the cab service.)

This was getting unpleasant. When I called for another cab, he was blocking all other drivers from taking the job, by picking it up himself, despite our argument with him.

I had to call the operator and specifically put in a disrequest for that driver. She cancelled him and gave me another cab. I explained that he had started the meter, in advance, apparently when he called us to say he had arrived. She told me that he wasn't supposed to do that.

In all, it was not a good experience. His actions made us feel harrassed - particularly when he began to interfere with our desire to get another driver. He was rude, aggressive, dishonest - and slightly mad. Sadly, he is not even unique among Singaporean drivers.

I am left to wonder what happens when a complaint is made against a driver. Is anything done, at all? Is there a disciplinary procedure? Observing the number of dishonest or unpleasant drivers on the roads, I rather feel that nothing is being done. As long as the drivers pay the taxi company their daily fee for the cab, I rather think the taxi firm doesn't really care how they behave. At least, there is no evidence of an improvement in taxi driver behaviour over the years.

When I call a cab, I expect an efficient, knowledgeable, polite and helpful driver to turn up. I don't expect a deranged and hostile man to turn up instead.

Would it not be better for the taxi firms to cancel the licenses of all such drivers, once they are identified through customer complaints?

Interestingly, I have never had such unpleasant experiences with taxi drivers in any other country I have visited. By comparison to most nations, Singaporean drivers are just not professional at all. They don't know where they are going - but they sure know how to cheat the customer. It is time for such practices to be outlawed.

As for us: we are gradually being persuaded of the wisdom of having our own car. Then we won't have to bother with irascible, unpleasant, dishonest taxi drivers ever again. At least, that is an answer we can control - and one that doesn't require the taxi firms to think of the customer before their corporate profits (which Singaporean companies just never do.)

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight 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.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:21 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

That is ridiculous. Unfortunately, as you said, there are many unreasonable people like that driver around. Someone I know went to stay in the US for 2 months during the holidays, and she said that the customer service there is excellent. According to her, Americans exude genuine warmth; unlike it in Singapore, where you often get the feeling that people are just humouring or patronising you. (And in your case, the driver didn't even bother doing that... He was just downright rude and childish.) I hope his employer does something about it - maybe metes out some form of punishment. It would be infuriating if he managed to escape punishment.

I hope your wife is feeling much better now - it was really horrible having to deal with unreasonable people when she was already feeling uncomfortable. I hope Ainan will recover soon too, and hopefully there won't be any damaging long-term effects on his arm.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, Miao, the driver was unreasonable...but more than that, he was harrassing us, in a way, by blocking our requests for another driver. He found a unique way to be obnoxious.

Ainan is OK about his arm now that it is in a cast. He seems to be doing alright, so we are hopeful it will heal well.

Thanks for your kind words re. my wife, too.

Best wishes

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds really bizzare. Taxi driver shenanigans just aren't supposed to happen in Singapore. Your title of "Another great..." in your post suggests that your incident isn't an isolated one.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Unfortunately, wayward taxi drivers seem as common as well-behaved ones. In fact, in some ways, it is NORMAL for the taxi driver to misbehave in some way. At least, that is my experience of the situation.

This driver was particularly irritating - and spooky in his behaviour.


11:01 AM  

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