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, September 13, 2008

The absurdity of Singaporean taxi drivers.

Singapore is, in some ways, one of the most absurd places on Earth. Taxi drivers provide a case in point. In Singapore, you don't choose where the taxi goes, the driver does.

Today, as usual, we encountered the common problem of drivers refusing to take us where we wanted to go: they wanted to go somewhere else. Typically, a driver will just shake his head and indicate that he doesn't want to go there. Once, however, a driver actually took us (on New Year's Eve) to near where we wanted to go, but wouldn't stop at our destination - because, to do so, would have made it more difficult for him to get another fare: so he refused to actually stop at our target destination, but insisted on stopping somewhere we didn't want to be. It was ridiculous - but that is Singapore for you, here the customer always comes last.

In Singapore, unlike anywhere else I know of, on Earth, drivers decide whether or not to take a fare to the destination requested. They frequently refuse to go to particular places - despite the fact that Singapore is the most homogeneous place on Earth and there are no "bad" areas: everywhere is essentially identical to everywhere else. Only an arbitrary place name distinguishes locations. So, if you ever visit Singapore and you only have time to see one shopping mall and one "town" believe me you have already seen the whole of Singapore - because it is all the same, everywhere. Singapore is a place without any places.

Think about what it means that Singaporean drivers can refuse to take you where you want to go. A taxi driver is doing a job and providing a service. Imagine they were, instead, office workers. What kind of office worker would be allowed to refuse requests from their boss to work? "No, I don't feel like doing that." "No, I don't want to go to that room." "No, I won't write my report." "No, I won't pick up the phone." "No, I won't relay the message." Yet, taxi drivers, in Singapore, do the equivalent of refusing to do their jobs, every single day of their lives. They pick and choose customers like some mad connoisseur of passengers, deciding which ones and where based on secret measures known only to them.

The powers-that-be in Singapore are multi-millionaires. They are the richest political class in the world. (Singapore is No.1 in the wages of the political class, at least, if not in anything else). So, they don't have to take taxis: they have cars, perhaps even chauffeur driven cars. They don't understand, therefore, the inconvenience to the population of allowing taxi drivers to pick and choose passengers. It should be an offence for a driver to refuse a fare. It should be an offence punishable by revocation of his driving license - and a heavy fine. It should be an offence that is levied without any option for leniency by the judge. If this were so, Singaporeans might actually have a taxi service worth having. As it is, the taxi "service" has an element of dark comedy in it. It is a bit of black joke on the Singaporean public. It is expensive. It is dishonest (they always take a long route if they think you won't notice). It is also unreliable (they tend to refuse passengers when they feel like it). It is not something to be proud of - and it is certainly not "No. 1" in anything except, perhaps, disregard for the passenger and the ideals of customer service.

Many things in Singapore don't work as well as they should - although most things work OK compared to their more undeveloped neighbours (which is always the first cry of Singapore in their own defence). However, Singapore shouldn't be comparing itself to undeveloped neighbours. It should be comparing itself to the best of the developed world. In such a comparison, it rarely comes out as well as it seems to think it does.

There is one good reason why things don't work as well as they should: the ruling class is detached from the concerns of the everyday man in the street because they are too rich to be affected by those concerns - so they just don't see them. At least, that is how I analyze it. When those who rule are wealthy, how can they ever hope to understand the problems of those they rule? In most developed nations, the ruling class is not actually very well off. This is because the salaries of public servants and politicians are usually quite moderate. Hence, in such situations, those in power are in touch with the concerns of all - for they feel the same concerns. In Singapore, however, to rule is also to be rich. It creates a different dynamic - and a different set of priorities from those who rule towards those they rule.

It is sociologically interesting - but it still doesn't help me deal with whimsical taxi drivers. In any other country, any driver will take me anywhere. In Singapore, I have to ask the driver whether he wants to go there. It is hilarious.

It is very unlikely that the powers-that-be will legislate for better behaviour from taxi drivers. A better option for the population of Singapore, therefore would be to behave like taxi drivers for a while: say, the whole month of October. This is simple to do: just refuse to do your job, for no discernible reason whatsoever. Ignore the orders of your bosses and customers alike and opt, instead, to wander around aimlessly in search of something better to do. For that, of course, is precisely what Singaporean taxi drivers do all the time. Were the whole nation of Singapore to adopt the One Month of Arbitrary Wholesale Disregard for The Customer, Boss and Universe Itself, the situation with regards to taxi drivers would become understood by everyone, in power and out.

Of course, no-one is going to do as I have proposed - but it would be funny. It would make clear how absurd the situation with Singaporean taxi drivers is.

A note for overseas readers: car ownership in Singapore is subject to a number of punitive taxes that make it far more expensive than in other nations. As a result many middle class people who would have been car owners in other countries, do not own cars in Singapore. The threshold for income level for car ownership has, therefore, been effectively raised by the legislation. However recent rises in the cost of taxis has persuaded many non car-owners to change their minds: more people now wish to own a car, so as to be in a position to avoid the over-priced taxi "service".

(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 @ 11:59 AM 


Anonymous David said...

Do not blame the taxi driver, blame the government. You see, the kind of attitude the taxi driver has is driven by the pragmaticism of the gahmen. The gahmen controls the taxi in Singapore and doesn't give a damn if taxi driver face hardship and couldn't get passenager to cover cost. The taxi driver pays daily rental and gahmen don't give the shit whether the driver cover the cost or not. To survive, the taxi driver has to select passenger to see if it is profitable to cover cost. time is precious for taxi driver because time is money. Take note that the government here don't care about taxi driver, they only care about profit, as such, taxi driver has no choice but to care about daily survival rather than take care of passenger's need. If the gov not gracious, don't expect the taxi driver do because the gov here is intrusive enough to be part of our life.

Why I know this ? Because my father is a taxi driver and he has been a taxi driver for 2 decades from owning a Yellow Cab taxi before, now working as taxi slave for gov.

If taxi driver not happy and try to complain, they will be asked to quit and gahmen says that if no one do it, others will do it.

Given such attitude of our ungraceful gahmen, do you think the taxi-driver be graceful too ?

9:47 PM  

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