Cruise ship passengers Jerry and Pam Reding had only a first name to go on when they tried to track down a Caymanian woman who had helped ensure they did not miss their boat.
All they knew was the woman they had met on a public bus during their visit to Grand Cayman early this month was called Arlene, worked in the tourism industry and lived in West Bay.
They wanted to thank her for her kindness to them on the West Bay-bound bus and her efforts to make sure they made it back to George Town in time for the last tender to their ship.
On their trip, on Dec. 2, the couple got on the bus during a downpour and got chatting with the woman. In a letter to the Cayman Compass, Mr. Reding wrote, “As we rode, she proudly detailed Cayman history and geography, mile by mile, while exposing us to her inner beauty and Cayman kindness.
“While we expressed that we only had an hour and 15 minutes to return to the last Port Authority tender prior to our ship’s departure, she quietly expressed some concern about our timely return to George Town.
“What happened next was unexpected; we encountered one of several yellow school buses stopping at almost every city block to unload students. That’s when Arlene pleaded to the bus driver our need to return to the port even more quickly than his present schedule; she even stayed with us as she passed her home to see that we would safely return to George Town without missing our ship’s departure, which we barely did, jumping onto the last tender as it began its last journey back to the Carnival ship Freedom. Whew! It was close.”
Once they returned to their home in Conroe, Texas, the couple embarked on a quest to find the good Samaritan who had helped them, spending several days making phone calls to the National Museum, The Ritz-Carlton, the post office and the Cayman Turtle Farm, among others.
“We wanted to thank her and to get a card and package to her in time for Christmas,” Mr. Reding said.
Then the Redings called the Port Authority, who put him through to their security section, who put him through to dispatcher Waldo Parchment.
“Normally I deal with that kind of thing, finding things for people,” Mr. Parchment said. “This is the first time I had to find a person. Usually it’s wallets or phones, I track things down.”
“They described Arlene. I didn’t know who they meant at first, they didn’t give me a last name,” he said.
On a hunch, he contacted Arlene Parker, who works at the Cayman Land and Sea Cooperative tour operation, and asked if she had met an American couple on a bus and if she’d had a lively conversation with them about President Barack Obama, as Mr. Reding had described to him on the phone.
“She said ‘That was me.’ The next day, I called [Mr. Reding] back and told him I’d found her,” Mr. Parchment said.
On Tuesday, gifts for Ms. Parker and Mr. Parchment from the Redings arrived by FedEx in Cayman as a way to thank the pair – Ms. Parker for her assistance and friendliness and Mr. Parchment for finding her.
The Redings sent the package to the Cayman Compass office where Ms. Parker and Mr. Parchment picked up their gifts – collectible Hallmark musical Christmas ornaments.
As pleased by the gratitude shown by the Redings and their efforts to track her down to thank her as she was by the gift, Ms. Parker said, “I never had anything like this in my life. This is great. It’s a big surprise.
“The amount of people I’ve met on the bus … and told them about the Cayman Islands or gave them a tour, this is the first time something like this has happened and I’ve been working in tourism for 10 years.”
She said after she got to chatting with the couple on the bus, and had checked with them when their tender was leaving, she had deliberately skipped her stop to stay with them.
“It was their first time here on island, so they [were] strangers to our land. I would want to be treated that way if I was on a strange island … I just wanted them to enjoy themselves and let them know it was safe to be traveling here and traveling on a public bus.”
After Mr. Parchment put them in touch, Mr. Reding called Ms. Parker. “I was so excited to hear from them because they searched the place down to get in touch with me,” she said.
Mr. Reding, a retired building developer, said he and his wife travel a lot around the world and had met many people, but were impressed by the friendliness they encountered in Cayman, especially from Ms. Parker, and they had wanted to do something special for her.
In a post-script to his letter, Mr. Reding wrote: “My wife Pam and I want to thank all the Waldo Parchments, all the Arlene Parkers, and all the Caymanians alike for their wonderful Cayman Kindness. This Christmas Eve, we wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Arlene and Waldo surely made ours.”