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 +

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Short term greed, long term loss.

The past couple of days have been instructive. I have seen the same type of thinking on two separate occasions, from taxi drivers. It is a curious type of thinking because though both spoke in terms of planning for the future, they exhibited short term thinking as an over-riding priority.

Yesterday, I took a cab home. The driver was a smartly presented Indian man. He was also very talkative. I didn't mind this, so much, since I had been waiting a long time for a taxi. This is a common experience in parts of KL where cabs are more noted by their absence, than their presence. Like much of the transport infrastructure here, in this capital city, there just isn't enough of it to go around.

Anyway, this driver started complaining to me about how, in the last month, 37 of his "regulars" had been lost. He said it was because they were expats whose contracts were up, so they had to go home. He then went on to tell me a tale of how one regular client had gone overseas for a holiday and never returned. He had had a heart attack. In his tale, which seemed to place himself at the centre, somewhat, the wife went to all the trouble of calling him from America, to tell him that they wouldn't be back and so wouldn't be needing his services anymore.

He then went on to say how he wasn't like other drivers. He didn't normally do "pick ups"...but that he was usually booked, morning to night, by regular clients. They would ask him to do airport runs, or take them sight seeing - or even just drive them around, everywhere, for the day. He was quite the hero, the way he told it, quite the indispensable driver.

I just listened quietly.

Once we arrived home, he tore off the receipt and handed me the bill.

It was rather higher than I had expected.

"I didn't call you out, you know."

There was a two ringgit "on call" charge on the bill.

"Yes. That is for the luggage. We usually charge 2 ringgits for the luggage."

Indeed. Well, I didn't have any luggage - I had some shopping. Furthermore, taxis don't charge two ringgits for that anyway. However, this is a common ruse of taxi drivers, here. I have even had one driver who tried to charge 10 ringgits extra for opening the boot.

I said nothing. I just paid his phantom charge - but inwardly I thought the whole thing rather amusing. He had given me a huge spiel designed to impress me about what a desirable driver he was to have - about how many expats chose him, especially to drive them around - and there he was showing his true character, by adding on a fictitious charge. What an idiot. No wonder he is losing so many regulars. I have no doubt that many of those "37 regulars" have not gone home at all. They have just had the chance to compare his charging practices with that of other drivers and realized that he was overcharging them.

I thought his behaviour a perfect illustration of the tendency to sacrifice long term aims, to short term greed. It is rather common here, I think, having noted it, already, quite a few times. Rather than ensuring a regular customer, by behaving impeccably and offering a genuinely good service, such people would rather profit, in the moment, by a few extra ringgits. When you think about it, it is remarkably short-sighted behaviour. It could even be described as self-defeating and self-destructive.

He gave me his card and urged me to book him in future, should I need to travel around. He clearly thought he had fooled me: funny isn't it?

Today, I had another uncannily similar experience. This was also an Indian driver. This one older, and thinner, but equally well presented. He talked even faster than the first one. He too, made a pitch for long term business driving us sight-seeing, to the airport - or even "anywhere in the peninsula of Malaysia".

All the while, as he talked, I studied the meter. It was doing something very strange. It was going up in jumps of twenty cents, not ten. Not only that, but it was jumping up, EVERY FEW METRES. It wasn't behaving with the customary sedate pace of other taxi meters.

So, not only was the price per unit distance double normal, but the distance itself was clearly shorter than normal...several times shorter, by all appearances.

I treated the whole journey as a lesson in human nature. He babbled on, trying to impress me with the service he could offer - much as the other driver had. Meanwhile, I had the message of the meter to tell me the true nature of this talkative salesman. Again, it was almost funny...though a bit of an expensive joke, for such a short ride.

In the end, the journey, which was a short one, cost more than three times the usual price. Then, he too, added on a "toll".

"We didn't pass a toll.", I noted.

He changed tack.

"The luggage. That is for the luggage."

We didn't have any luggage...just shopping, again.

I said nothing, but paid him without the "toll" added.

He said: "That is OK."

Then he wrote his number on the back of the receipt, since I would clearly be in need of booking a driver who costs three times as much as anyone else.

What a funny world.

So, both drivers gave sales pitches, for long term, repeat business - and both blew it, by short-term greed shown by overcharging.

One detail I should add: at the beginning of the journey, the driver tapped the meter and said: "See this is on the meter...see?"

What he didn't say, is that he had a very special meter, unlike anyone else's. I wonder if he had tampered with it, himself?

Anyway, I have been watching drivers in KL, for a couple of months now. In that time, we have taken many cabs. I have, however, selected only three drivers, who showed spontaneous acts of honesty and good service. It is interesting how much such behaviour stands out from the likes of those above. The funny thing is, none of the drivers we selected made any sales pitch at all...they just exuded integrity and that was enough for me. The best sales pitch of all is a good character. KL's taxi drivers would do well to remember that.

Oh, and the first driver's number: HWC 4381. If you encounter him, expect rapid patter and imaginative charging practices. Good luck. (I don't have the second one's details: his hand written receipt had no identifying information).

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:51 PM 


Blogger Christine said...

I have dealt with some crazy taxi drivers. I had one steal a bag of mine when I came back from the airport after going home for the holidays last month. I brought two bags inside and went out for the last two and one was missing. I scolded myself for not taking them piece by piece to my doorstep, which would have been much smarter.
I wasn't in my right mind. I had traveled on three flights, went through two customs, had a nosebleed and an ulcerated wound on my leg.
I was upset because I had bought lots of herbal medicines in the USA that I couldn't find in Korea. I did hope he would use the stuff. He didn't speak English and I had some psyllium seeds (a laxative) in the mix. It would serve him right if he uses that stuff when on duty.
I shouldn't have taken a ride with him, and waited for another taxi since he didn't help me put the bags in the vehicle in the first place. (I am a small woman) And yes, the loser asked me for extra money as well. I will be more careful next time.
I went to the hospital the next day and the doctor ordered an IV drip of antibiotics for me. My leg healed after a week.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Christine,

That sounds like a terrible journey. Did you get the number of his cab? (Perhaps a receipt?) You should have tried to report the theft.

I am glad to hear you are OK now.

In some countries in the Middle East it is recommended that a man and a woman travelling together do this: the man should get in the cab first and get out last. This is to ensure that the driver doesn't drive off with the woman in the cab - and then attack her! Ugly.

Take care.

9:34 AM  
Blogger The Crunch Time Blogger said...

in Singapore, the system 'takes care' of the people. In Malaysia, we take care of the system.

In Singapore, follow the rules. In Malaysia, rules are meant to be broken, so negotiates.

On the meter modification thing, if you are in the driver's seat, it's called creativity and a little extra income for the family.

As a passenger on regular trips, just offers a price, smiles and wait for respond, counter offer if required, deal done, no later misunderstanding.

Btw in China, if someone to sell you (who looks like expats) something for 10 bucks, you offer 5, likely done at 6 if you insist. Interactions makes the world goes round.

Price for learning the culture: priceless.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've your blog added to google reader. So that I can stay up to date through my cell phone.

However for all your blog posts, they're truncated. Only the 1st paragraph or so shows up. This particular post ends at 'he was also very talkative. I'.

Any idea what's wrong?

11:27 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hmmm...I would think that there is a certain length allowed in your format, or in the feed, from the blog...and the post exceeds that length. However, if you visit the blog online, you will see the full post. Sorry about this. I think the idea is to publish enough to give the reader an idea of whether the particular blog post is worth reading and visiting.

Thanks for subscribing. Happy reading!

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im so sorry for what u'd experienced in my country.
that's why we, malaysian, prefer to drive our own car.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there! I've been reading your blog for some time now, but this is a first post. I thought it was very interesting how similar your experience with the taxi drivers was with your observations about internet posters: how those of higher caliber rose so obviously above the rest and how scarce they were. Actually, that was the thing that attracted me to your blog in the first place. :)

I have a bit of a different opinion regarding anonymity on the internet, because I think it shows people for who they really are... judging by the way people write, I can get a sense of their maturity level/personal character.


2:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is kind of you to apologize on behalf of the taxi drivers...but it isn't your fault.

You are right. Our own car would be a good idea. We would like to try to arrange that: first step, a driving license!


3:28 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

You make an interesting comparison between the quality of taxi drivers, and internet posters. Perhaps it is a general rule among every endeavour, a few shine by their inner qualities, unmatchable by the others, some of whom do the opposite of shine.

Re. anonymity. If there were none, on the internet, the net would be a much more civilized place: certain behaviours would be extinguished, if people knew that they would be identifiable.

Thanks for your first post!

3:31 PM  
Blogger The Chengs said...

Hah - even your driving license can be arranged for *imaginatively* with the tester. Just like how your traffic police fines can be "fictitious" and "evaporate".

10:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Chengs,

So, I have may buy a license here, it is said...but we wouldn't do that. I would only feel safe if the driver of the car - whether it was my wife or myself, had genuinely reached the proper safe standard. So, we will do it the proper way.

Re. police fines...I don't know, but again I have heard of such tendencies.

It certainly has its differences from Singapore...

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, I have may buy a license here, it is said...but we wouldn't do that. I would only feel safe if the driver of the car - whether it was my wife or myself, had genuinely reached the proper safe standard. So, we will do it the proper way."

Even then, no matter how honest you want to be, be prepare to give "kopi" or "corrupted" money to the driving tester because this is how Malaysia is run. This kopi money culture is pervasive and common in Malaysia and if you did not follow this rule, you will find it difficult to live in Malaysia.

Corruption is a sad fact of common life in Malaysia, where unlike Singapore where corruption exists only in echelon, gov and high status.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I don't like the sound of this "kopi" culture. I like things to be straightforward. Thanks for the warning: we will be watching for this kind of thing.

Would the examiner fail a good candidate in Malaysia because they had NOT given a bribe? That would be alarming if so.

Thanks for the tip.

9:45 AM  
Blogger The Chengs said...

Re "kopi" culture. It is quite true, particularly among the common folk.

I don't think the statement about singapore govt can be so easily mentioned. Not a laughing matter.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I never got any name or license number from the taxi. I wish I did. I'll be more careful later. I am happy that I got home safely though.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. laughing matter. It wasn't my comment...but that of a poster on my blog.

I thought it best to give them their "freedom to speak". Any queries should be addressed to them, however.

1:19 PM  
Blogger The Chengs said...

yes, i was referring to THAT "anonymous" poster.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dun think it is difficult to have a driving license here.. dun listen to them.

gud luck on getting ur own license! :)

6:32 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you. We try for a license the PROPER way.

Best wishes.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Jorge Coelho said...

Cheers from Portugal!

Regarding the Google Reader thing, I also use it to keep track of a few blogs.
The same thing happens for some of them. It must be something or other in the configuration of the feed.

Anyway, it's not a problem. The title of the feed on Google Reader works as a link for the original post. So, even in a mobile phone, you can follow the link and read the whole text.

PS- Thank you for sharing your thoughts and some of your family moments with us. I feel really honored for having access to them. Best wishes for you and your family.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for the explanation Jorge and I am happy to hear that you enjoy my blog.

By the way, you have a very familiar name, courtesy of a very famous author: is he any relation to you?

Kind regards

7:42 PM  
Blogger Jorge Coelho said...

No relation that I know of, but you never know... Most of brazilians have grandfather or a great-grandfather who was a portuguese, so that's always a remote possibility.

But Coelho (which means rabbit, by the way) is a fairly common family name in Portugal, so it's really not very probable.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ah, I see, Jorge. Never is a good name to have anyway, because people will associate it, with him, and remember it.

Best wishes to you in Portugal!

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Mich Lei Juice said...

Well, most taxi drivers tries to get the most out of their passengers specially if they have been stuck in traffic or something. At most times I let things go on a similar experience like yours but I always keep the taxi's plate number and call the authorities to make a complaint about them. I don't know how they end up now but it just serves them right for not being honest or something.

6:48 AM  

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