The first time Joe Duffy was ever conscious of his Dublin accent, he was speaking at Trinity College when a boy started goading him from the audience. One of only three people at the time to make it from Ballyfermot to its hallowed halls, he lived on the last stop at "the other end of the bus route".
On the second, he was in Doheny & Nesbitt telling friends about his new trainee job in RTE when a man interjected: "Do they know you're from Ballyfermot?"
In the 40 years since, he has taken this vulnerability and turned it into gold.
The man of the people, the nation's agony aunt, his humble roots enable him to identify with the sidelined.
While other presenters dealt with experts and politicians and celebrities and 'men of standing', Joe found that real power lay in the voice of the everyman. The broken-hearted, the scared, the flawed, and, of course, the nation's critics.
He thought he had seen it all. And then the pandemic struck: "Without doubt, this is easily the biggest issue I have ever covered, and I was on the airwaves when the Twin Towers was hit on 9/11. I remember saying 'this day will be remembered as the day that changed the world' and it did. But this is different. In terms of its longevity, its reach, its deviousness, its virulence, it is really, really frightening."
As he talks about it, even Duffy sounds scared. He sees the pain on his morning walks: "I have seen people walking, crying, with tears streaming down their cheeks. They aren't looking for solace or intervention. They are just thinking. Maybe about their children, their grandchildren, their children, their future ... it's a really difficult time."
As a nation, he says, we will be traumatised. "There will be a reckoning at the end of this. Some of it will be good, and some of it will be really traumatic - mentally, physically, socially, politically and economically - for so many people."
The one hope we do have to see us through is close to being extinguished - but it's there: "Ireland is still, and it is hanging on by its fingernails, but we are still a country that can have a conversation. You can still get somebody in Donegal exchanging stories with someone in Darndale with similar experience."
On why it's in thin supply, he points to social media and "the way people interact is changing", although he still feels it adds to the "communicative experience" and is "part of the rich tapestry".
To keep his own head level, he has started to meditate. "I am doing it every night. At 8pm there is an organisation called mindfulness.ie and I sit down on my own and try to get everything out of my head. You are not identified and you don't have to show your face or speak and it is led by someone for a half an hour of silence and contemplation. I find it uplifting in my work anyway just to sit there and focus on you and what you are doing and how you are thinking."
What he is not thinking about is retirement. His colleague Sean O'Rourke may have highlighted the ageist laws which prevent people from continuing on as staff at the national broadcaster once they reach 65, but, for Duffy, who turns 65 next January, that isn't a problem.
"I am not on staff," he says, and you can detect a hint of a bemused laugh when he recalls "they wouldn't let me go on staff way back".
"I am a contractor and part of the deal is they can let me go tomorrow on my mother's 91st birthday and there is no comeback. So other forces will determine whether I go or not but I have no intention. I've no wish."
Though still one of the most listened to shows on the airwaves, his pay was cut to €389,988 in 2016 from €416,893 the previous year. Duffy is prudent and anything he has goes towards the future.
"Any spare money goes into the pensions in our household. I don't have a pension from RTE, I don't have sick pay and I don't have a safety net - and the pension is gone again. It disappeared 10 years ago with the crash and now with Covid-19. It was invariably invested in stocks and shares." But he says: "It's not a worry in my life. The worry in life at the moment is people's health."
He has collected two key pieces of wisdom from the seasoned broadcasters who have gone before him.
The first was from the late Gay Byrne. Sitting at his kitchen table after telling his mentor he had been offered a Sunday morning show, he wondered if he should take it on. He already had a six-day workload.
"So what?" came the reply. "It is what we do. Do it while you can, it won't last forever."
The second was from the late Larry Gogan.Liveline may be 20 years old this year, but Joe won't hear it mentioned. "Larry said 'don't ever let them have a programme to mark your [milestone] because someone on the third floor will hear it and say he is doing that for 15 years? It's time for a change!'"
I recount a tale a colleague once told me about the late Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning. He would often come barrelling out of his office cursing the broadcaster to the heavens because the phone lines were hopping. Invariably an article had been picked up by a concerned caller who phoned in her dismay to Liveline, stirring the nation from its slumber once again.
Duffy's ability to turn what might have been a simple 'tut tut' across marmalade and toast at a breakfast table into a national outcry is legendary.
Even his own station isn't exempt. Most recently he had the nation in a sweat when a group of pearl clutchers called in to complain that RTE's Normal People was "like something out of a porno". But Duffy refuses to call out the puritanism when asked what it says about Ireland's attitude to sex. "We have matured dramatically," he says, perhaps knowing which side his own toast is buttered on.
Say what you want, but those 75 minutes are unmissable when in full swing. Duffy is Twitter without the venom or defamation or anonymous stone-throwing. And even a fool could see RTE won't want him to go anywhere soon.
He tells a story of taking his kids to see coal mines, with a message to take home: "I told them: Now that is work. Lying on your side with a pick. A lot of what people do is hard work." In contrast, he sees his position as "a privilege".
He and his team write to many callers on a hand- painted card long after they have come off air. The messages come in from listeners, too. Albeit not in a way you might expect.
"They drop notes in my front door, they ask: 'will you please take up this issue?'" he says. He has no fear ideas might dry up: "Everyone has 10 stories in their lives - and that's just at any one time."
It seems the world may be changing and full of uncertainty, but the nation will cope so long as they can talk to Joe.