You think you are really smart when you carefully buy tickets from frequent flyer points way ahead of time, you use the credit card points to buy another ticket, advance purchase hotels on internet to avail of low rates, manage to spot the ballet and concert before others to get vantage seats. Then all of a sudden an unpronounceable volcano erupts and one starts to open geography books and search the internet to understand what is happening. We cannot understand what volcano ash means since we grew up learning that volcanoes spew lava, rocks and gases. We find that the volcano ash at thirty thousand feet in the sky can cut off a continent from the rest of the world and we realize how dependent we have become on a means of transportation which was not available to all a century ago. It is perhaps a good time to remember that the first commercial airline was the German Zeppelin Corporation in 1909
We take roller-coaster rides in amusement parks for a sudden rush and watch horror movies to get scared but the moments that most of us recall as being the most frightening are those when we have been faced with the incomprehensible and mammoth powers of nature. I have faced such moments when I have been underwater in the sea faced with a fish baring it teeth and looking aggressive and when I had underestimated the labyrinth, maze and heights of the corals in the seas of Puerto Rico between me and the boat. Other moments were when one was scared one would not be able to trek back from the glacier in Jungfrau to catch the last train down to civilization when my daughter was very young and yet I do not claim to have an affinity for hazardous sports and nature exploration as some of my friends. We tend to transfer our virtual personas created from success through the internet and technology world to real life which does not prepare us for reality.
The world cannot imagine how Europe, the citadel of progressive civilization for centuries can possibly be paralyzed from Volcano Ash. While my flight was cancelled and I have incurred losses, gained permanent frown lines and loss of hair from the episode, one cannot imagine the plight of people stranded in airports with little money or education. There may be others who have examinations, interviews or operations that were scheduled. Elderly people will probably let the stress and physical inconvenience affect their health.
In India, the IPL, minister, an attractive lady and IT raids have taken up most of the newspapers. However the impact of the European disaster has affected many people at both the business and personal level. The damage to perishable products exported has been the highest. The impact on world economy will be felt after issues are sorted out since currently most people are reading the words “Don’t Panic” very loudly, as was prescribed in the Hitch hiker’s guide to the Galaxy.
A few suggestions to those affected from one who is experiencing the situation is that most airlines, hotels and tour operators are being very co-operative in refunding money and readjusting bookings. If a flight is cancelled one has to do a rebooking. In certain cases like mine it is easier to cancel the ticket and do a fresh booking. If the booking is through a travel agent, the cancellation, refund or re-booking is done through the agent. Cancellations of flights due to weather conditions do not automatically translate to being accommodated on the next plane to the destination. And of course as Douglas Adams said – Don’t Panic!