When Chuck and I were in Grand Cayman last week, as we were discussing how best to get to the other side of the island for dinner at the highly touted Cracked Conch, counter to my preference to take a pristine, pricey, quiet, safe taxi, Chuck insisted we take the $2.50 bus — of, for and (driven) by the natives.
“Come on!” he said. “When in Rome…”
I acquiesced. Chuck “won” that one.
So we took off walking from the hotel. After about 65 seconds, a Caymanian bus beeped its horn. “Come in! Come in!” said a not-in-unison, collective group of unrestrained, enthusiastic voices. I mean, that bus was jam-packed. There couldn’t possibly be room for two more humans.
“Baby, we can’t. It’s too crowded. Look in there,” I whined.
“Oh, get in! It’ll be fine.”
So we did… And it was…
We climbed up and in, then over backpacks, luggage and who-knows-who-or-what else. The bus then screeched away from the side of the road onto the main thoroughfare. And thus began our Caribbean adventure, an evening of what I swear was the universe reminding us of what a beautiful, glorious hot-but-wonderful-mess of a melting pot in which we live.
Chuck sat next to AJ,
an adorable, talkative 6-year-old local boy. Oh how I wished I would have brought my purse, because he so wanted an “American piece of gum.”
I sat next to two 20-something girls from Austria, who had just come from Cuba, who were then on their way to Boston before heading back home. Confused? So was I. But they were so sweet — and clearly having the time of their lives.
Then in front of us sat a couple from Nova Scotia who was visiting their daughter, who had been working as a waitress in Aruba and was now working at the Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman. (Good gigs, no?)
We finally, safely, happily arrived at the Cracked Conch…
…and the sipping, savoring, moon-basking and dining began, under the stewardship of our darling, attentive waitress Sandra, from Sweden, who introduced us to her “assistant” with dark skin, a superbly square jaw, and smoldering eyes – whose name I cannot for the life of me recall right now — from Barcelona! (I won’t tell you the trashy novel I wrote about those two – Ms. Sweden and Mr. Barcelona – in my mind.)
And then a sixsome took up residence at the rather large table to our left. Chuck and I were on a worldly roll here, wondering from which faraway locale they hailed. We listened, leaned in and eavesdropped…and heard them tell their waitress they were from Iowa. Wa-wa-waa. (No novel, trashy or otherwise, could be conjured up.) (And I’m sure they would have said the same about us.)
“Hello — is it Chuck?! Jodie?! We met on Monday, right?”
There was Joey, a Londoner of Lebanese descent who we had met a few nights before at our hotel. He was one of the top producers this year at Chuck’s company. (Just ask him, he’ll tell ya.) Very nice, very vivacious, very… self-assured.
“Oh, hi Joey. Yeah! Chuck and Jodie,” Chuck said. “Good to see you again.”
He spent the next seven minutes telling us all about his day: smoking Cuban cigars and drinking 50-year-old French wine on a 75-foot German-built yacht with a friend from Turks and Caicos who he had met through his hedge-fund manager friend in Dubai. (You want to hear more details about his day? Just ask him, he’ll tell ya.)
He asked, “Are you guys staying on here in the Islands after the meetings? My wife and I are. We’d love to get together!”
“Shoot. No,” I said. “We’re going back home, to Sacramento.” Wa-wa-waa.
So after an enjoyable, delectable repast, we paid our bill, headed out to the front of the restaurant, and ordered a taxicab. (Too late in the evening to gamble with the bus thing.) And that’s when we met Sergei and Lynn — Sergei with longish, dark wavy hair, tall of stature, with a swagger in his gait and a cigarette in his hand (but in that sexy European sort of way). Lynn? Ample-hipped, button-nosed, lily-white skin, with a non-assertive brown ponytail and wearing a just-this-side-of-matronly sundress.
We decided we’d share the taxicab ride and fare back to our respective hotels. Yay! We’d get the scoop on this mysterious duo.
“Okay. Where are you from?” I asked Sergei. ‘Cuz I just knew when he opened his mouth, he’d emit an exotic, thick, sultry, accented voice.
“Oh, me? I’m from Russia.” (I wish I could write with a Russian lilt and cadence right now.)
“Oh, that’s cool! And where are you from, Lynn?”
“I’m from Nebraska.”
“Seriously!!!?” I cackled. I could not help myself.
The pieces still just did not fit. Why/how were they together? And what was their relationship?
After further inquiry, we learned more fun facts about this seemingly incongruous coupling:
So they were in Grand Cayman for the wedding of their Brazilian friends. And yes, they were
indeed a couple. An engaged couple! They’re both medical doctors. Pathologists! They met while doing their fellowships at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. Lynn went to medical school at Stanford; he went to Harvard. (What big fat, juicy, robust brain cells they have, eh?) They’re now co-habitating in LA as they happily plan their wedding, which will probably take place in Michigan.
Okay. So I was way wrong. Opposites do attract. And you can’t tell a book by its cover. After talking with them for 15 minutes, I was convinced they were a perfect couple and will have a long and happy life together.
The taxicab dropped us off at the hotel. We bade our newfound BFF’s (whom we’d never see again) adieu, wished them luck, and headed to the bar for a little nightcap to celebrate their pending nuptials, where we then met some fellow Empty Nesters… from Australia.
One day. One small island. A couple of Canadians, two Austrians, a Swede, a Spaniard, six Iowans, a Brit, a Russian, a Nebraskan, a couple of Australians, and two Sacramentans. One small, wonderful world.
I think melting pots are just so cool.