Stepping through the door of the shop, I spotted the man standing near the checkout counter and automatically veered left toward the Irish flags.

Stepping through the door of the shop, I spotted the man standing near the checkout counter and automatically veered left toward the Irish flags.

Natural inclination is to go right, but I would have hit a wall.

Nothing on God's green earth could make me walk past him, because he might speak.

Since I was on my lunch hour, I did not have to play the part of a social news reporter.

It comes as a shock to people who have listened to an hour or two of my nonsensical chatter, but I am anti-social.

My parents called me "Chatty Cathy" after a doll that was popular when I was in my youth, but no one ever accused me of being chatty with strangers. Basically, I don't like people, and they have never given me reason to change my mind.

I was painfully shy until I reached high school. At that point, I guess I was comfortable enough in my own skin to make my presence known, and I was rather popular then.

My grandfathers, two of the six key people in my life before I reached adulthood, were social folks, as was my father's grandmother and my mother.

It was often said of my grandfather, Burgess Wogan, that he "never met a stranger." The 6-foot, 3-inch, hellfire and brimstone Irish minister, who visited hospitals and prisons, made friends with patients and prisoners alike.

My great-grandmother, another of the key six, was an Irish woman who stood nearly 6 feet tall. She was not only social but it was said she kissed the Blarney Stone. Of course, with four or five husbands to her credit, I don't think she limited her kissing to a rock.

My mother's father, who was Native American, was equally congenial. People who were known racists loved him. The mischievous glint in his black eyes made people chuckle and shake their heads in amusement and bewilderment, even when he was getting the better of them through horse- or whiskey-trading.

It was like seeing salt and pepper live together when it came to Mom's parents. While Grampy was dark and lively, Grammy was fair of skin with red hair and a temper, to boot.

It doesn't take long to see who this little Irish-Indian took after.

I adored Grampy, but I inherited Grammy's fair skin, red hair and a "temper, to boot."

Like Grammy, I have always been withdrawn unless I am developing a source.

"Kate, I think you've taken a liking to that one," Grammy said with a thick brogue, if I said more than two words to someone.

She was right, of course.

People I didn't like, I refused to speak to.

"Don't force her to talk to 'em," I heard Grammy scolding my mother one day. "It'll be a blight on her soul if you make her befriend that one, and I'll be thinkin' she has good instincts. I never liked him much myself."

The guffaw reverberated through the kitchen.

"When did you ever like anyone?" Mom asked Grammy, and they both laughed.

"I love Katie, me darlin'," she said, grabbing my hands as I entered the room and urging me to do an Irish jig as she clapped her hands and tapped her tiny foot in time to it.

Not being social, I was not much of a dancer unless it was an Irish step dance, jig or one of the Native American traditional dances. An Appalachian child knows her cultures.

Daddy was antisocial, too, so he didn't care if I appeared rude when I refused to speak.

One time a man I didn't like came to our house. I tried to ignore him, but like so many people you try to avoid, he would not have it.

Since I was mowing the lawn, I pretended not to see or hear him as he walked down the sidewalk to our house with my father.

The blasted lawn mower took that particular moment to run out of gasoline.

"Cathy," he said. "I said, 'Hello,' but you didn't hear me."

"I heard you," I said flatly, filling the tank on the mower and firing up the engine again.

The man in the store reminded me of the man in our yard, he would not be ignored.

"May I help you?" he asked.

"Darn," I thought. "He either works here or owns the shop."

I tried to hide behind a jewelry case.

"No, just looking," I said.

It took mere seconds for him to reach me. I felt my lashes touch my lower eyelids as I turned my head and tried to block him out.

"Looking for a particular piece of jewelry?" he asked.

I looked into his expectant face and tried to turn on the charm.

"Yes," I said. "I am looking for a claddagh hair barrette."

He looked a little rattled.

"I don't believe I've ever seen one of those," he said.

I nodded.

On several occasions, I have heard the same remark.

"I saw one about 10 years ago," I said. "I should have bought it then."

Turning away from the jewelry cases, I decided to escape to the clothing.

"If you would like to give me your name, I would be happy to look for one for you," he said, stopping me in mid-stride. I gave him my name and number and he promised that he and his wife would search for one the next time they visit Ireland.

"I prefer gold," I said. "But I will take what I get."

"Gold is more expensive," said his wife.

"Evidently I still look like the same starving Irish waif that grew up in Appalachia, despite my Indian bulk," I thought, as I eyed her intensely enough to make her look away.

Without a doubt, I would buy something before leaving just to use a $100 bill.

I wandered to the rear of the store to observe the Beleek, which reminded me of Grammy.

"You have a fine head of hair," the man said, following me.

The comment stopped me in my tracks and I looked back over my shoulder at him.

"Is he giving me a bad time?" I wondered, recalling since childhood the laughter emitted when people learn that I am Indian with a head of red hair. I decided he was serious. Someone else might have poked fun at an aging, overweight woman with long red hair, but not a man who surrounds himself with all things Irish.

"That's a lot of hair," he said.

"Not as much as when I was in my youth," I thought. "Not quite as red either, with the sun and age bleaching the pigment out and leaving it a reddish blond."

"You know what you need," he said, "a tiara."

The laughter erupted from my vocal chords as he produced a tiara with a claddagh on it.

"It's a step dancer's tiara," he said.

"I know," I said, eying it and having a flashback to the days when I was still light enough on my feet to do a step dance or a jig. "I have one, one in silver and one in gold."

Cathy Wogan is a staff writer for ThisWeek.

Cathy Wogan