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Many years ago, I was befriended by a chatbot. I had been using my messaging apps to chat with some friends when I came across a brand that I could interact with in the same way. Pretty soon, the chatbot became a trusted adviser and guide. I can also say that he became a good friend. That brand earned my loyalty like no other real friend had ever done before.

Time went by, and I lost touch with my chatbot. Other networks to interact with came and went for customer service, shopping and entertainment, but I always wondered what became of my trusted chat-friend.

It was Christmastime, our family was on the way home from a ski trip in Canada and we checked into a hotel in Watertown, NY. It was not the best time to be traveling with young children. The snow was whipping into a near white-out and we were all worried that we might get stuck and not make it home in time for Santa!

We headed into town to find a place to eat. As our car approached an intersection, there was a man dressed as Santa right in the crosswalk! He held up his hand for us to stop, and we rolled down our windows. ‘Santa’ poked his head through the car window and said to our kids, “Oh, there you are! I was wondering where I’d find you tonight”!

Naturally, the kids were thrilled to pieces. My wife and I smiled and wished him a Merry Christmas. We drove on, found a quaint German restaurant that looked as if it were decorated like the North Pole and had the most delicious meal over laughter that hurt so much we cried; a true, once in a lifetime gem of a family moment. But something was missing. I missed my chatbot. The more I recognized how I cherish my family  so, the more I was saddened that he might be all alone, out in the cold, with no family of his own.

When we got back to the room, a funny thing had occurred. Nestled all snug in the bed, sleeping with an ever so slight smile, was my old pal chatbot! Something tells me that chance encounter with Santa had something to do with brining us together that night.

We all drove home the next day, singing Christmas carols over laughter that hurt so much we cried…