Christmas in the Cayman Islands means, for most people, a festive day spent with family or friends with a backdrop of brightly wrapped gifts and a feast of food and drink. But for those with jobs in vital services or the tourism industry, Christmas is just another day at work.
Air traffic controllers
Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman and Charles Kirkconnell Airport in Cayman Brac are open for arrivals and departures on Christmas Day and air traffic controllers are needed to guide the pilots.
Craig Smith, the acting air traffic control manager, said his staff continually aims to conduct air traffic in a safe, orderly, and expeditious manner, and Christmas Day is no exception. “In a sense, this is what an average day looks like,” he said. Although he won’t be working himself on Christmas Day, speaking on behalf of the four air traffic personnel who will be, Mr. Smith said the controllers on duty will work in shifts.
“On Christmas Day, shifts will be taken, for instance in the early morning, and the other at midday,” he said. “The other shift would begin around 7 p.m.”
Families of those who work during the day will wait until the end of their shift – or before the start – to open or exchange presents, or indulge in Christmas dinner.
“It’s like a vacation day,” he said, adding that employees have the option to choose what other day they would like off, once they work on a holiday. Mr. Smith said that the days leading up to Christmas and the days immediately afterwards are usually pretty busy, but Christmas Day is a little different. “Christmas Day in itself is usually slow,” he said.
Airport support personnel
Once visitors and returning residents land at the airport, some will need taxis.
Tammy Bush, a ground transport supervisor at Owen Roberts International Airport, will come on shift at 3 p.m. and work throughout the late afternoon and night on Christmas Day.
“It’s like a normal day for me,” she said. “It’s like any other day we work, the same routine.” Her work entails dealing with arriving passengers, dispatching taxis and buses, overseeing the parking lot area and helping drivers get in and out, and keeping track of the luggage carts.
“I’m pretty much everywhere,” she said of her wide-ranging duties. She’s hopeful the airport won’t be too hectic on Christmas Day. “Every year is different … I am assuming that everyone will have reached their destination by Christmas Day,” she said, adding that it was likely though that people would still be landing in Cayman on Dec. 25.
Gas station attendants
Some of the taxi drivers and others who are driving to work or otherwise on the roads will need to purchase gasoline and some of the stations will be open.
Michael Hayman, a pump attendant at H&B Esso on Shedden Road, usually enjoys getting together with his family on Christmas.
“When we get together, I bake potato puddings and fruit cakes,” he said. “It’s my specialty. I also make carrot juice and sorrel drinks by hand.”
This year, even though he will miss spending time with his family, Mr. Hayman will go to work on Christmas Day, just as he would any other Friday.
“You get [paid] a little more on Christmas,” he smiled when asked why he’s working on Christmas. “Working on this day will help me in paying bills. Besides, I enjoy working here. We have a great team.”
Dive shop workers
Ollen Miller has been working in the water sports industry for more than 42 years. At his dive shop, Sundivers, beside Macabuca in West Bay, he’ll be working on Christmas Day, just as he does every other good-weather day of the year, from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.
“We work with the weather; we’re a dive shop,” he said. “Sometimes the water is rough, and we can’t go out there. But when the weather is good, we sometimes cater to 200 persons who want to dive.”
Part of his everyday routine consists of running dive boats, manning the dive shop, teaching courses, filling tanks for other companies, and interacting with a large volume of customers.
“There are many people who want to dive,” he said when he was asked why he would be working on Christmas. “I am in the business of catering to the diving community. Besides, I enjoy what I do. I’ve been doing it for a very long time.”
Once he gets off work, Mr. Miller said he intends to spend the rest of the day with his wife and two dogs while having a Christmas dinner. “Christmas ham is what we eat each year,” he said.
It’s a sad fact that illness and injury do not take a break for Christmas and neither do the staff at Cayman’s Health Services Authority.
Christmas Day will begin for Dr. Courtney Cummings at 8 a.m. with a tour of the Cayman Islands Hospital to check on his most serious patients. If there are no complications, he could be home by 11 a.m. but there will be little opportunity for too much Christmas merriment. He is on call until 8 a.m. on Boxing Day and has to be prepared for anything.
“It is not a traditional Christmas, but I am used to it by now,” said Dr. Cummings.
Christmas Day tends to be quiet, but the same cannot be said of the rest of the holiday season. “Usually Boxing Day is busier with road accidents and people drinking and getting into trouble. Hopefully it will be quiet this year and everyone will stay safe,” he said.
Compass reporter James Whittaker and editor Norma Connolly contributed to this article.