Fiction On Odyssey: My Exclusive Interview with Legendary Investor Warren Buffett
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Fiction On Odyssey: My Exclusive Interview with Legendary Investor Warren Buffett

I sit down with the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway for a candid chat about money, charity, and how to live your best life.

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Fiction On Odyssey: My Exclusive Interview with Legendary Investor Warren Buffett

When I arrived five minutes early, Warren had already been there for 10.

I sauntered into the Waldorf Astoria, discreetly flashing my iPhone screen to myself over and over, hoping that seeing the time would somehow make this more real. It didn't. Instead, I found myself expecting the minutes to start flying by, the walls to collapse in on themselves, and this entire hotel to be uncovered as an elaborate prank, a ruse manufactured to trick a nobody. I took my steps deliberately, always feeling as if each was alternatively too long or too short. I kept my head on a swivel, waiting for a bellhop to return from his smoking break and apprehend the underdressed kid who thought he had any right to walk down a hallway that was more chandelier than concrete.

A row of concierges appeared to my right, each seeming a perfectly manicured animatronic. Like a Chuck-E-Cheese bear flashing lifeless eyes while strumming on a stringless guitar, the robotic gatekeepers simultaneously shot me sharp gazes - in the briefest second before they all returned to typing at supersonic speed it seemed they had learned everything about me, from my name to my blood type. It hadn't mattered to them.

I straightened my collar, considered buttoning my shirt to the very top, hated myself for forgetting a tie, wiped clammy hands on my slacks, and nearly spoke aloud just to see if my voice would crack and splinter at the first opportunity. The morning breakfast hall was directly before me. For as far as the eye could see, rows of tables were covered in white linen cloths, each chair delicately pushed in. An army of waiters glided between tables like a rehearsed ballet, every one of them both totally expressionless while still donning toothy smiles.

The scene had played out a thousand times in my mind - heads would turn as I entered the ballroom, a sea of socialites snapping to attention as my outstretched hand reached for the man who was the envy of every overpaid lawyer and screaming agent within a 10-mile radius. Mr. Buffet, although he'd ask that I call him Warren, would push aside my formal handshake in lieu of the kind of a hug that a grandfather gives a boy who returns from college a man. Let's sit, he would say, and we would both laugh when we pulled out chairs for each other.

My hand was not outstretched. I could feel it growing clammy again. The chatter of business deals made over eggs benedict buzzed in my ears, and my soon-to-be-friend was nowhere in sight. I took an unsure step as doubts began to creep into my mind.

Would I be able to recognize Warren? Would he even show up at all? Worse... what if he does show up and I'm only myself, barely spitting out a question or two before he throws his napkin down in disgust and storms off? I tried to walk calmly around the room but it felt like I was sprinting between the tables, a disfigured demon accidentally allowed entrance into this pearled kingdom. My heart skipped a beat, and I felt my breath catch in my throat. This was a mistake. Even as I stood, wheezing like a stuck pig, not a soul looked up from their conversation. I was invisible.

"Alec?"

The voice seemed to come from everywhere. I spun around and found myself again lost in the wash of Ray-Bans and fashionably greying hair. One face, though, remained obscured to me. A pair of soft brown eyes magnified by plainly-rimmed glasses peeked out from behind the overwhelming front page of The Financial Times. The newspaper lowered to reveal the grinning face that I had encountered in my dreams every day for the past month. Somehow, in the stark lighting of the lounge, Warren Buffett's smile was kinder and even more inviting than I could have imagined.

"Mr. Buffett! It is an absolute honor to meet you, sir," I said.

After an inconspicuous wipe on the back of my thigh, my hand reached out to meet his. Warren stood up with incredible ease for a man of his age and gripped my hand with the strength of someone who rests only when he must.

"I'm sorry I'm late. I just-" I tried to say.

"You're early," said Buffett. "I just make it a habit to be earliest. Besides, I thought it best to get started on today's reading and avoid too much chit-chat with these youngsters who think I hold the secret to making money." He glanced at the neighboring tables, instantly making the diners aware that their side-glances and hushed gossip had not gone unnoticed.

One buttoned-up executive dropped his knife at the realization, and Warren laughed with such honest joy that I felt myself crash back to reality: This was Warren Buffett, the man, in front of me. This was real.

I took my seat with a nervous energy that dissipated with Warren sunk calmly into his. He folded his newspaper as if the Queen herself had just asked for the Markets section. Warren placed it delicately on the edge of the table and turned to face me with the full force of his attention. This was the same attention that he used to decipher earning reports, to pioneer a new wave of thoughtful investment and philanthropy. This was attention that moved the world's economy, and here I sat, feeling the outline of the index card with scribbled questions in my pocket, receiving its full force.

"What would you like to talk about today, Alec?" he asked. "I can't stay for long - I have a board meeting this afternoon - but I always jump at the chance to talk to an excited young person about their aspirations."

Warren didn't wait for my answer. He leaned back slightly and his eyes narrowed by a hair as he continued.

"The world moves quickly, wouldn't you say? It's important to take time to nurture the generations that will stand on your shoulders. The trees I plant will give shade to those who are around long after I go."

He smiled at this thought.

"It means so much to me that you're taking this time to, uh, speak with me," I said. "I wanted to ask you about-"

"I suppose you'll want the usual questions answered, won't you?" interrupted Warren. "Let's get them out of the way, why don't we? There's no use wasting valuable time. Let's get to it."

Even as he took control of the conversation, Warren's tone was always gentle. This is a man who knows so much but manages to avoid any air of condescension. Warren Buffett oozes humility.

"I was a real stud back in the day - kicking ass and taking names," he begins. "I've been a self-starter for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Nebraska, and I'll always call it my home, no matter where I rest my head. The rolling hills, the sweetest towns, and the people - goodness, the people. You can scam them out of anything. I once started a dirt-selling business when I was 11 years old. So help me God, I sold dirt to more than 1,000 people! It wasn't even special dirt! I had simply drawn over the sign on my lemonade stand and started digging up the lawn around me. My customers were literally standing on top of the product they were buying, bless their hearts."

Warren's eyes glaze over with nostalgia, and he giggles uncontrollably for about 20 seconds.

"If I can only leave you with one lesson, Alec, it's that price and value are simply not the same. Price is how much you pay; value is what you get. Never forget that. The second lesson I would leave you with, Alec, is that tax evasion is not that challenging. Hire a reputable PR company, and you're more or less in the clear. No one audits a sweet old man, especially if they toss a few bucks to charity. Remember that, son."

It was at this point that Warren Buffett hocked a loogie into his cup of water.

"Have you heard the expression 'money is the root of all evil'?" asked Buffett.

"Yes, I ha-"

"It's wrong. Ex-wifes are the root of all evil. Don't even get me started. You know that infidelity used to be celebrated, right?"

He rubbed his temples.

"Let it go, Warren," he whispered to himself. "You are strong. You are beautiful. You are a golden stallion beamed down to Earth to cash checks and pleasure women." He beat his chest once with an open hand and looked up at me expectantly.

It occurred to me that I did not have anything to say. So, he continued.

"A lot of people look at me and think that I'm just an old bag of bones with a few extra bucks laying around... I'm more than that, you know?"

Warren took out a cigarette, rolled it between his fingers, then thought better of it and slipped it back into his coat pocket.

"This place sucks," says the titan of industry. "Let me tell you a story, then I'm getting the hell out of here. I had a tabby cat when I was growing up on Omaha. She had a beautiful fur coat and all the loyalty of the sweetest dog you could ever meet. She and I would prance down the street, chasing each other for hours. I loved her, and she loved me - no question. We meant the world to each... until one day when it all went sour. I was headed back from primary school when I saw one of my brothers playing with my darling Esther. That was betrayal, plain and simple. Esther should have known that I was the only one for her. She knew better than to play with anyone else, let alone my own brother. It was unthinkable. Of course, I was forced to string her up by her tail."

Warren puts a butterknife between his teeth: "You wouldn't believe half the things I've done, kid. Never cross me."

Looking equally exhausted and satisfied, Warren stood and threw his napkin on the table. He stretched his arms and cracked his knuckles. Without a word, he spun around and began walking out. After a few paces, he turned and gave me one final stare. His eyes narrowed.

"Alec, would you like to see me urinate?" he asked.

"I'm okay, Mr. Buffett," I said.

Warren Buffett scowled before reluctantly flashing double finger guns at me, like a lonesome cowboy firing from the hip at a young man who refuses to watch him use the toilet in a Beverly Hills hotel. Then, he disappeared into the crowd.

Never meet your heroes.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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