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: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html 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.)