Right back ‘atcha

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Alphabet letters - c-h-a-t - hanging by wiresI was raised to chat people up. My dad was a fan of connection and passed on the gene.

Mom? Not so much. She was more reserved.

When people would finish a chat with my father, they tended to say things like, “Loved meeting you, Richard” or “Thanks for the laugh.”

To which my father would reply: “Right back ‘atcha.”

I probably fall somewhere in the middle of my parents’ styles, but connection is something I think saves most of us from lonely lives. Even when we’re surrounded by people. You just never know when a kind word or innocent statement will hit someone like a ton of bricks in the best possible way.

Some of my friends shake their heads as I chat my way through life with shopkeepers, my grocery checkout clerk, taxi drivers.

Shake away, friends.

Today, it came right back at me. All that good karma.

During lunch, I walked the dog and drove to the grocery store. After dropping off the groceries inside, I ran back out to the car to get the dog.

And locked myself out.

I had a conference call coming up, groceries that could spoil on the counter and a hungry dog outside with me. Did I mention no jacket? (Why do I still not listen to my mother’s good advice? Bring a jacket, just in case. I can still hear her scolding as I ran out the door as a teen.)

I immediately called Steve, the friendly locksmith who had replaced my lockset just a few weeks ago.

He answered, distracted. I told him who I was and that I needed him to unlock my door as soon as humanly possible.

“No can do,” he replied. “The soonest I could be there is well over an hour.”

As I fretted and clucked, he seemed disinterested.

And then, I hit the mother lode.

“Ok, Steve. It’s the same door you fixed last month when you stopped by. I’ll see you when you can get here.”

He paused. “What did you say your name was?” After I told him, the lightbulb went on. And his tone suddenly changed. “I’ll be right over,” he said. “I can stop by before this next appointment.”

Puzzled by the sudden switch in attitude but happy it was to my benefit, I waited. No more than 10 minutes later, he parked his van in my driveway. Smiling, he had me in my door lickety split.One happy smiley

As I wrote him a check, he offered this: “You were so nice last time I was here. A really nice lady. And we had such a good conversation about Catholic schools. And our dogs. You were a bright spot in an otherwise awful day. I just couldn’t leave you out in the cold.”

Aha, now I understood.

We had made a connection. One I did not think twice about but he must not make with a lot of clients. Our chat was the reason I stood out in his mind.

Thanks, Dad. Lesson well taught. Groceries saved, shivers averted, dog fed.

Don’t think connection matters? The world will throw that right back ‘atcha.

And if, like me, you feel the opposite is true, well then the world will throw that right back ‘atcha.

Take your pick.