Our day with Larry Page: Embedded with one of the world's richest men
Larry: I don't know about that
Earlier this week, El Reg received an unexpected phone call from Google HQ inquiring as to whether we'd be interested in a "color piece" about Google cofounder and Alphabet CEO Larry Page.
The invitation had nothing to do with criticism of Mr Page over his recent deposition in the ongoing Uber-Waymo lawsuit in which he seemed ill-prepared, highly defensive and possibly not connected to this mortal realm, we were assured.
Naturally, we accepted and so spent a wildly uneventful day trailing the multi-billionaire Google cofounder and his perfectly normal life. These are the "highlights" of that day.
We met up with Larry at his local Palo Alto Starbucks where, just like anyone else, he queued up and ordered a drink while his bodyguard held back other customers.
Starbucks server: Good morning, what can I get you?
Server: OK, a coffee perhaps?
Page: My answer is yes.
Server: Right. I'll put you down for a tall skinny latte.
Page: I'm not familiar with that.
Server: Well, it's a shot of coffee with skimmed...
Page: That's correct.
Server: OK, then. One skinny latte coming up. To go?
Page: Somewhere, yes.
Server: That'll be four dollars...
Page: [holding out three twenty-dollar bills] This is some money.
As we made our way over to a nearby table, we took the opportunity to ask Mr Page about the Uber lawsuit:
Reporter: So you were recently deposed by Uber's legal team about the $100m bonus paid to Anthony Levandowski – and you questioned whether that made him a valuable person to Google...
Reporter: OK, Alphabet.
Page: No, Google X.
Reporter: OK, Google X.
Page: No, Google.
Reporter: ...whether that made him valuable. Isn't $100m a lot?
Page: Yeah, I guess in that sense, I guess somewhat.
Reporter: I see. And how do you decide what is and is not valuable to Google?
Page: Alphabet. I would ask David.
Page: He wouldn't know. But he would know who to ask to find out.
Reporter: And then he'd tell you?
Page: No one told me anything.
Reporter: But David?
Page: I don't recall that. But it's possible, yeah.
Reporter: You said that David would be the person to tell you...?
Page: Maybe. Do you have more context?
Larry catches sight of himself in a mirror and decides he needs a haircut. His hairdresser, by chance, is only a block away.
Hairdresser: Hi Larry, the usual?
Larry sits down as the hairdresser reaches above his station to pull down an intricately shaped ceramic bowl with the words "Page – Final" inscribed into it and places it over his head.
Hairdresser: So did you catch the game last night?
Page: What is the purpose of that question?
Hairdresser: Well, I, just thought, just making conversation.
Five minutes later and the hairdresser is done, removing the bowl and leaving Larry looking exactly the same.
Hairdresser: Any gel or wax?
Page: I'm confused as to the question.
Hairdresser: Well, do you want some gel or wax in your hair?
Page: [looking confused] My job is delegation, you know, and so I delegate.
Page's assistant: I think maybe a little wax.
Hairdresser: Wax it is.
It's lunchtime as we arrive on the Google campus. We head inside and up to Page's office on the top floor. As we stand outside his office door, he stops.
Page: There's some code-based card thingy.
Reporter: I'm sorry?
Reporter: Are you trying to open the door?
Page: I don't know all the details of that.
Reporter: Well, it looks like you are trying to open the door to your office but you suspect it's locked and you're trying to recall how to open it.
Page: Yeah, I'm not that familiar with how we do that.
After a few minutes, a secretary hurriedly appears, lifts up Larry's arm and holds it near the door lock. It clicks open.
Inside, an assistant is helping slide a chimpanzee's arms into a jetpack while several video cameras held up by Google-branded balloons float close by. Several remote-controlled cars are zooming around the room by themselves.
Larry climbs onto a stationary bike and starts cycling backwards, causing his desk to rise up to the ceiling and reveal a giant Twister game underneath.
Reporter: Is this a new Google X project?
Page: I'm not sure.
Reporter: So that's a 'no'?
Page: State the question again, please.
Reporter: Is the flying chimpanzee and game of desk Twister part of a new project you are working on?
Page: This seems like something complicated that I don't know anything about.
Reporter: But it's in your office.
Page: I did not know that until you stated that.
Reporter: That it's your office?
Page: I guess...
At this point, Eric Schmidt, Google chairman, walks into the office with four women dressed in skimpy sailor outfits hanging onto his arms.
Schmidt: Hi Larry. Who's this?
Page: I don't recall.
Reporter: Hi, I'm a reporter from The Register. We're doing a color piece on a typical day in Larry's life.
Schmidt: [indicating swiftly to the assistant with the chimpanzee] Well, that's great. I hope you got to see just how normal and terrific everything here at Google is. Now if you don't mind, Larry and I have some important business to discuss.
We are ushered out of the room as Eric Schmidt puts his arm around Page.
Schmidt: Larry, what did I say about talking to normals again.
Page: Not Googley.
Schmidt: That's right, not Googley at all. And what do we want?
Schmidt: That's right. You know that I google you, Larry, don't you?
Page: I google you too, Eric. ®