A sci-fi movie could not have come up with a better plot, except in a movie by now Tom Cruise would have gone on some life threatening mission to the centre of the volcano and saved the world from its doom, (either him or Luke Skywalker.)
Unfortunately in real life we are stuck waiting it out. Half of Europe is right now squinting their eyes while tilting their head ever so slightly thinking: "What the fu#k?"
In the last few years and thanks to airplanes the world has become a very small place. We take flying for granted, and for many of us it is part and parcel of our lives.
My family’s personal schedule for the upcoming 7 weeks included trips to Kenya, Spain, Colombia, Geneva and Uganda. My parents live in London and for the first time ever they have realised that it is an actual island fully surrounded by water. It’s taking them two days to do what would normally entail a two-hour flight in order to attend their grandchild’s communion.
The strangest thing is –apart from the fact that it is Iceland at the root of all this chaos- no one knows what to do or what to expect. No one really knows how volcanic ash affects airplanes, (not really, like how many times did someone think, 'oh yeah, lets spend lots of money to see what happens when a volcano explodes near an airplane.') Or how this extraterrestrial ash, (cause surely soon this is going to be blamed on a UFO, Al Qaeda or the government) is going to affect our respiratory systems and agriculture. No one *really* knows how long it’s going to take for things to go back to normal.
We are breathing easy again because flights are starting to go in and out, but next week everything could change again. The last time the volcano erupted it was active for two years. TWO YEARS! and the thought of not being able to fly for that amount of time, or any extent of time for that matter, appears to be truly unthinkable. I get a message back from my brain that reads “does not compute”
Like many people these days I fly for a living. Not because I work in the airline industry, but because I have to physically visit locations I am supposed to evaluate, and they are always in far away places. I also emigrated from home years and years ago, so my family is elsewhere, and flying is how we go home, how we see the cousins and the grandparents. How we attend weddings and baptisms. The thought of my children not being able to see their family for two years is just not acceptable. Again “does not compute.”
I’m sure that there are much more dramatic stories than mine. Parents caught away from their children. Farmers’ stocks rotting at the airports. (wait! Does that mean we are going to start running out of some of the nice exotic food items we take for granted too?) There are also funny stories of people’s much unloved bosses caught away indefinitely, or that of a friend whose romantic cruise with another couple translated into her husband and the other couple’s wife being the only ones that made it out.
But what strikes me most about all this –apart from the fact that it is little, insignificant, pretty and friendly Bjorg’s Iceland at the root of such a big problem- is how unthinkable a life without flying is to me. I try to make the mental exercise of how my life would change if I were not able to fly for two years, and it seems almost as bizarre as if someone told me I could no longer use computers but had to go back to typing, or sending mail instead of email. The extent of the shock translates into a system crash, and a blank screen followed by and another “does not compute” sign.
Here’s to hoping.