Being chatty comes in handy

When I was just a kid, I would often marvel and sometimes be annoyed by all the people my dad knew. We would meet his acquaintances in stores, restaurants and even on vacation trips out of state. It seemed like no matter where we would go, my dad knew somebody or somebody knew him.

What I didn?t understand then and have since learned is just how valuable those types of connections can be. Obviously, Dad has always been a friendly guy. And, he is also apparently the type of person people want to talk to. Call it a gift.

As my children were growing up, they sometimes expressed that they have felt the same way I did in my childhood. They would occasionally roll their eyes when I ?gave my life story? as they viewed it to a complete stranger. I contend that, while some people really don?t want to know the family history, most at least show polite interest. They often open up about themselves as well. And, that is the real value that comes from these types of conversations.

I have found out the best restaurants in a mountain town or where to the find the cheapest and least crowded laundry. I once received a tip on how to beat the lines at an Orlando, Fla., theme park. While others waited more than an hour at the best attractions, members of my group took the suggested short cut and were enjoying the rides in about 10 minutes. I learned this trick by talking to an employee in one of the gift shops.

Sometimes the information comes too late to help us on a first experience, but the info comes in handy the next time around.

For example, on a ski trip to Colorado last March, we found out after purchasing a lift ticket for a beginner that a ticket and a half-day lesson was only a couple of dollars more than just the ticket. I found this out by chatting with the clerk behind the window.

My wife is one of those people who can recognize acquaintances from her past without possessing the gift of knowing their names. I don?t know how many times I have heard, ?I know that person from somewhere.?

Just the other day we were in a local fast food joint when she was hit with this feeling. The man that drew her attention apparently also felt the same d?j? vu sensation. Kathy approached him and struck up a conversation. They had gone to college together, and though they had not seen each other in more than 30 years, they found some additional common ground.

After only a few minutes of playing the ?Mennonite game,? they discovered that his son had married my wife?s brother?s niece. Though my son and daughter have been somewhat slow to come around, I have noticed that they have begun to develop the talkative trait.

My daughter makes friends easily, and in her role as a social worker, she needs to have lots of conversations with people she doesn?t know very well?at least not a first.

My son, on the other hand, lives in Wichita in an environment not necessarily conducive to friendly chats with strangers. But, he has learned to know lots of people from all walks of life, even though he might not recognize the role friendly banter has played in the development of these networks.

So, the bottom line is, it never hurts to visit with people, even though you can?t be sure what fruit your friendliness will bear. But, even if nothing substantial comes of your chatting, it has cost you nothing but a few minutes.

And, there is always the potential that the intelligence gleaned my save you some time and effort.