Tales from the ash cloud

volcano ash cloudThere are worse places to be stuck than in a nice London hotel. I’m right in the thick of things, two minutes from Covent Garden and five from Soho. It doesn’t suck to be me, even though I bitch about this damned volcano on twitter and to anyone who also wants to share complaints.

I was supposed to leave this morning. Now I’m booked on a Tuesday flight, but I’m skeptical that it’ll take off. The whole thing is almost comical. You can’t see any ash anywhere. Today was another beautiful bright blue day, clear as a bell and with no flights, no contrails mucking up the sky. I had a long stroll through Hyde Park and wished I was wearing shorts. Thousands of people were out enjoying the park.

Luckily, my company is footing the bill for me to be here (for now). There are about 20 Yahoo’s here from around the world, so it’s costing the company a pretty penny and that likely extends far beyond those of us who are stuck here. And I’m not trying to get home from a vacation, I’m not penniless and holed up on a bench at the airport or couch surfing on long-lost friends’ couches.

There are painful stories everywhere around town. Yesterday afternoon I dipped into the only quiet pub I’ve found in Covent Garden and started talking with a stranded Australian who was trying to get back to Sydney so he could meet up with his wife, and the two were scheduled to jump on a flight to Hawaii for an anniversary vacation. Now he’s trying to book his flight direct to Hawaii instead, but chances are he won’t make it at all since he can’t get out of Heathrow. We shrug our shoulders and share a laugh about it, tipping our pints back, because that’s all you can do. Might as well drink and make the best of it.

Even the bartender at the pub is stuck; she’s trying to get home to France for a big family reunion. The trains are jammed and if you really want a ticket, you have to pay a premium upwards of $300 or more. Speaking of premiums, my hotel rate has conveniently gone up $50 a night, and they removed breakfast and tax from the charge. “That’s business, I guess,” said the guy behind the desk. The airlines may be losing $200 million a day, but some people are getting rich off this mess. It’s amazing, really, to think of all the various people and downstream businesses that are affected by this. It is such a big deal.

The only reason I want to get home so badly is to provide some relief to my poor wife who’s home juggling two babies, our son and her job. This weekend has felt like a vacation for me, and it isn’t fair. I’ve had some fun (a little too much fun last night, oww) but it sure would be more enjoyable if there was an end to the ash cloud in sight. Instead, we’re powerless to do anything about anything, and that’s what is so frustrating.


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