When I arrive at the café that Denis O’Brien has selected for our meeting, he’s is already there sipping on an espresso and doing the Independent’s crossword puzzle on his mobile. “Preventative! Tissue! Rhinoplasty!” he shouts down the phone. He looks up and sees me, my mouth agape as I take in the breadth of his intellect. Not only does this man sell mobile phones and accessories, he also provides the words for a most challenging, daily word based game in a moderately popular newspaper which he owns.
“Hello” he says, clasping both of my hands in a single one of his huge, calloused, manly hands. “Yes, it’s true. I make up the words of the crossword every day! But that is just one of the things I do before most people even start work!”
He indicates that I should sit in the chair opposite him, my bottom, enraptured by his overwhelming presence hits the cushioned metal chair before I can even think of doing it myself. It’s barely a quarter to nine and the man is already in full swing. He shouts his order of two more espressos in the general direction of the counter and then turns his attention to me. “I am Denis O’Brien” he says confidently “My friends call me Dinny and my physiotherapist calls me The Dennenator. I suppose you could say I am a man of many names. At least three.”
“That’s very impressive” I say, “I only have one. Tell me about your childhood, how you became the raging tiger of capitalism I see before me.”
He flexes his arms and grins. “I was orphaned as a child and raised by seals in Waterford. It was from my seal family that I got my ambition to sell mobile phones and newspapers. They are very up to date with all these things. I still go back at least once a year to visit my adoptive seal family and lie nude on the rocks while pondering how to sell more mobile phone accessories, like water meters and prefabs. It was my adoptive father seal, Barbara, who gave me the idea to ask Michael Lowery very politely to give me a mobile phone broadcasting license. You see, no one had ever spoken politely to him before, because he’s from Tipperary and people from Tipperary are unable to have a conversation without muttering swear words under their breath and flexing their arms while the other person talks. He was so impressed and moved that he started crying and pulled the mobile phone license out of the back pocket of his jeans and gave it to me right there and then.”
A waiter arrives at our table and drops off two espressos. Denis takes one in each hand and shoots them into his mouth at the same time.
“OK! Its time to go to work!”
A black Mercedes pulls up outside the café immediately. Its windows are blacked out and it is very big and impressive.
“Your car is very big and impressive” I say to him.
“Yes, I know. It’s a special type of Mercedes that is only available to very rich and impressive people. It even has air conditioning and rear headrests as standard.”
A driver emerges and opens the back door for us. Denis leaps into the car like a gymnast and I follow him in.
“Driver!” he shouts “To the super-secret special office building in the IFSC!”
The car accelerates in a cacophony of squealing tires and the screams of awed bystanders. Dennis winks at me then presses a button and his window rolls down, “I am very rich!” he shouts out the window.
“We’re very impressed by that!” the pedestrians shout back in unison.
A short time later we drive into an underground car park, empty of other vehicles. The driver parks in the largest car parking space I’ve ever seen. It’s at least ten feet wide! The driver opens the door and Denis jumps out, lands on his outstretched arms and cartwheels into an open elevator door. I scramble out the door, jog behind him and enter the elevator just as the doors close.
“I’m going to show you the very heart of my business. The beating heart of a multibillion euro corporate empire!”
“I am very impressed” I say.
He squeals in delight at my comment and pushes the button to take us even further underground. We spend what could have been ten minutes or thirty seconds descending. It’s hard to tell because time itself seems to warp around Denis as it is so impressed by him.
The elevator dings in a better, more expensive way than any elevator I’ve been in before. The doors slide open to reveal a warehouse sized space full of pipes and machinery. Dozens of engineers and technicians in colour coded overalls are inspecting and monitoring various terminals and workstations. As soon as we step out the elevator doors a man rushes up to us wearing a set of orange overalls; “Boss! Boss! We need you to help us for surely we will fail on our own!”
“Calm down” said Denis calmly “What’s the issue?”
The engineer hands Denis a golden iPad with a very complicated looking spreadsheet on its ultra-high definition display. “It’s the internet pipes! They’re full to bursting with data! If we don’t get them flowing smoothly again soon, they’ll blow the safety valves and there’ll be bits and bytes all over the place!”
I can see the concentration on Denis’s face as the millions of wheels in his brain start spinning at maximum velocity, pumping out brainpower like an automated spinning jenny pumps out woven cloth. Suddenly he smiles, looks up and says “Open up the extra, overflow internet pipes. That’ll sort it out.”
“You’re a genius.” the engineer replies, his voice dripping with awe “That’s why you make the billions and I earn an insultingly small amount in comparison!”
“You betcha! Now go get those pipes full of internet!”
The engineer salutes Denis and runs off to the other end of the massive room. Denis walks towards the middle of the room and I follow. “This” he says gesturing wildly with all of his limbs “is where the magic happens!”
“Wow, you’ve learned how to monetize magic?” I ask.
“Ha ha! Not yet my friend, not yet. No, half these pipes are full of data and the other half are full of water! Every time you flush a toilet or have a shower or whatever the poor do with water, it all flows through here and my engineers and technicians count it all with a huge measuring jug and send the government a big bill. Then the government split the bill between everyone and sends out a smaller bill to you!”
“Wow, that must be a huge measuring jug.”
“It’s immense! Very impressive. In fact…” He winks at me “You are standing beneath it right now! The entire building above us is a single giant measuring jug!”
“Wow! What about the pipes full of data and internet?”
“Ah, now they’re very special! What we do is, we take all of the spare internet that would be sent to rural Ireland and instead we put it in these pipes” he lovingly caresses one of the pipes “and send it all the way to the Caribbean where we can sell it for more money!”
“You are indeed a God among business persons.”
We spend the rest of the day in the facility as Denis wanders around solving problems and fixing things while making big piles of cash. Lunch is delivered by George Hook in a fantastic blue and gold suit accentuated with a clashing pink and white tie; he averts his eyes as he lays down the meal in front of us and then bends to the ground and backs away never taking his eyes off the floor. Its caviar and roast parrot, my favourite!
Before I even know it, it’s six o’clock and time to go home. Denis grabs a megaphone and announces this to his employees.
“Goodbye dear leader, you are so impressive!” they shout back in unison as he turns his back and walks to the elevator.
“Now it’s time to go home and spend some quality time with the family.” He says to me. We enter the car again and drive out to Dublin airport.
“Do you live in the airport?” I ask him pointedly like the journalist I totally am.
“Ha ha! No! My home is in Bermuda I just have the family wait for me in the jet which is constantly circling Dublin airport!”
“Wow. Do they not get dizzy flying in circles all the time?”
“No, the jet flies in a very large circle that is too large to get dizzy in no matter how many times you go around.”
“That is very clever and impressive. Do your family enjoy the jet?”
“Oh yes! I have special jet teachers for my children and jet assistants to cater to my wife’s demands and whimsies. The jet is also fully stocked with exclusive jet food and jet television stations which are only available to people who own jets.”
The security guards manning the gates shout “We’re so impressed!” after the car, from the ground where they have dived to shield their fragile bodies from the massive, very impressive car which has driven through the gates without slowing down. In fact I think it sped up as we crashed through the barrier! We pull up beside the runway just as a private jet lands right in front of us. The entrance hatch opens and the stairs unfolds all the way to the ground. Someone kicks a red carpet from the top of the steps; it rolls down the steps and comes to a stop right outside Denis’s passenger door. Denis steps out and quick as a flash catches a full pint of Guinness which has been thrown from the jet without spilling a drop.
“You see” he turns and speaks to me “I still drink lovely Guinness. For I am truly a man of the people still, in my very soul.” He takes a long drink of the pint and smacks his lips in delight of the black hoppy goodness.
“Well, it is here I must leave you. I must go spend time with my jet family and connect with them in special ways only available to the extremely wealthy. I have enjoyed this day with you.” He pauses, a smile flickers onto his face for a moment. He fishes in his pocket for a moment then says “Hey, kid.” I continue staring at him. “Catch.”
He throws a fist full of gold and silver nuggets and SIM cards at me too quickly for me to shield my face where they hit with much pain. “Ow” I say “I thank you for your gifts. This has been a great day for me too, very impressive.”
“Thank you.” He says “Maybe we will meet someday again, say if you ever become the leader of a political party or a leading civil servant or such. Goodbye!”
With that he sprints towards the jet and with single bound jumps from the ground right into the open hatchway. Shouts of “Daddy!”, “Husband” and “That was very impressive!” emerge from the jet just as the steps retract into the plane and the hatch closes leaving me alone on the runway of a major international airport with no idea how to get home. I am suitably impressed.