CORNER BROOK — Margaret Noseworthy was kneeling with a microphone in her hand Monday, welcoming dozens of cruise ship passengers aboard a shuttle bus, when she noticed a woman standing in the October chill, trying desperately to get her attention.
When Noseworthy turned, the lady outside the bus smiled broadly and blew her a kiss. Noseworthy returned the favour, and the women waved goodbye with all the warmth of two old friends. The fondness of the exchange did little to suggest the women were essentially strangers, unlikely to meet again.
The pair — Noseworthy, a volunteer tour guide on a free shuttle service for cruise ship visitors and the woman, one of over 2,000 passengers who’d arrived hours earlier aboard the Brilliance of the Sea — were simply happy to have met one another, however brief the encounter.
“She wanted me to know that they got back safe,” Noseworthy said with a smile Monday, remembering the woman she and driver Gerald Carroll had dropped off within walking distance of the dock earlier that morning.
That’s the kind of impression Noseworthy has been making for weeks as she does her rounds, helping visitors to shopping destinations around the city.
Wearing a Newfoundland tartan scarf and at times a sou’wester, she took questions in French and English during one round-trip Monday.
She also speaks Spanish and Greek.
Passing the now sparsely-stocked lumber yard at the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill, Noseworthy told stories of the days when the yard teemed full with pulpwood when her now 97-year-old father, William O’Keefe, worked there.
Some passengers were pointed to the best places to get good coffee, while others were directed to a local fish and chips place with explicit instructions to “tell them Margaret sent you.”
All the while the passengers came and went, each greeted by Noseworthy’s easy smile, with many sent away still laughing at one of her jokes.
It’s a far cry from Noseworthy’s day job as owner of a local safety consulting business, or role as volunteer on a number of committees such as the Community Health Initiative.
A self-described professional volunteer, she said while giving her time is in her blood, attending meetings isn’t as stimulating as encountering hundreds of new people like on the shuttle.
“This is almost like a reward for the other volunteer work,” she said. “I have the gift of gab and I love telling stories, so I’m just having a blast.”
She said she hasn’t regretted the decision to answer a call for volunteers from the Humber Economic Board three weeks ago, although she’s slightly disappointed she’s the only person to volunteer to be a tour guide.
Noseworthy lived in Montreal for 12 years, and has missed being part of a bustling, multicultural centre. She views her role as guide as a way to bring that culture to her, while allowing her to speak in her many languages.
The passengers seem happy to have her as well, with some recommending her particular bus — which Noseworthy has dubbed “the happy bus” — to their shipmates.
“A lot of them get back on the bus and they say ‘we’re so happy we got you back. We missed you,’” she said, noting Carroll is also popular for his wealth of local knowledge and sense of humour. “They have a great time and they aren’t expecting this.”
Giving the visitors an unforgettable experience is just what Noseworthy has in mind and she’s hopeful passengers leave with a positive feeling about her community and its people.
“I’m not saying I’m the saviour or anything, but I get a chance to give people a good impression of us to take back to their corner of the world,” she said.