Every weekday morning, I brush my teeth while listening to the business news on Morning Ireland. Once the weather comes on, I know it’s time to spit.
The presenter’s mame is Emma. She sounds very glamourous and by jove, does she know her business. She’s all about credit ratings, bondholders, soveriegn debt and the EU-IMF bailout. In fact, these are some of her favourite things. She interviews chief-executives, London traders and business-market leaders at break-neck speed, firing at them an alarming assortment of questions which I don’t comprehend.
I’m not a scientist or anything, but I think there might be a critical period for developing business accumen. At school, while other students were learning about the stock exchange and interest rates, I was declining Latin nouns and checking out cartoons of Roman boys in togas.
As a result, I simply don’t get economics. When I see images on TV of old men in high-rise glass buildings pouring over computer screens at changing numbers and getting very excited, I just think “huh?”. When people talk about “burning the bondholders” I get a mental image of Shakespeare’s Shylock being burnt at the stake. I’m absolutely baffled that a body with as temperamental a title as Moodys can dictate at a whim the direction of markets values.
As regular readers will know, I’ve some desire to make it in the world of journalism. Back in the day I thought this might involve composing a few witticisms on farcical political characters, or being sent to cover a dull Dáíl debate on fishing quotas. Now, to my horror I’ve discovered that the whole world functions on principles I do not understand. In an attempt to salvage my career prospects, I looked for measures to reduce my deficit.
Oh, how I googled. Oh, how I typed search terms like “bond holders”,and “bailouts” into Wikipedia. Alas, it was like a never-ending economic web, with each explanation containing a further collection of incomprehensible fiscal terms, which in their turn had to be googled.
But then everything changed. I was walking past Trinity last week when something caught my eye. Perched on the top of a lamppost, like a beaming Evangelist was my answer: a poster with the title “Understanding the Euro Crisis”: an invitation to a public meeting on the subject: All Welcome.
It was like a sign from the heavens.
As I left the house last Thursday night I called back “just off to a Sinn Féin meeting. Might be late..” before slamming the door.
There was a spring in my step as I got off the luas and made my way to The Shelbourne. I had brought my notebook with me so that I could jot down key economic terms with which to regale my friends in the future. I felt like a proper journalist.
Outside the Shelbourne, a group of middle-aged Americans was getting ready for an expensive meal in the city. I know this because the ladies were dressed in exquisite skirts with lace trimmings and because the mean were smoking cigars. And because they were outside the Shelbourne.
I approached the doorman who was guarding the rotating glass entrance door.
“Good evening, Madam” he said with a gallant Polish accent.
“Hello there”, I replied, deilghted at his attentiveness. “I’m here for the public meeting”
“The Sinn Féín talk, Madam?”
“I believe it is full, Madam”
I gulped. It could not be.
“Oh what a shame!” I replied, downcast, imploringly.
He paused. “Maybe if you wait a few minutes for people to be seated we may be able to accommodate you”
I beamed. What a sterling human being he was.
As I leaned gracelessly against the railings I watched the traffic that was making its way in and out of the building. Some wealthy Arabs, more loud Americans and some glamourous French. And then a steady trickle of grubby Dubliners in hoodys and jeans. Again and again I heard the phrase “I believe it’s full, Sir”
I became alarmed. After some time I returned to my Polish friend and asked him what my prospects were.
He must have sensed my economic passion. He sighed “You may go in Madam. Turn left at the pillar and enquire there whether you may enter the meeting”.
I almost stumbled in my excitement and as a result briefly got stuck in the rotating door. Once in however I rushed to the attendant by the pillar.
“Excuse me, I was wondering whether there might be space for me in the meeting?
“No, It’s full”.
What. With those three words my heart sank.
My bubble burst, I turned away dejected and slumped out the rotating doors, past the doorman and back to the luas stop.
€3.50 for a return luas fare only to be turned away at the door! What an absolute waste. Needless expenditure. That’s exactly what got us into the mess we’re in.