Tuesday, April 20, 2010


While getting ready to go to work this morning, I tuned in as usual to my favorite radio station, Europe 1. And in so doing, I learned that the Icelandic volcano Fjfqkdfkmdfjdslkf has intensified its eruptions, ensuring continued air travel mayhem. Sorry, I mean volcano Eyjafjallajokull.

While millions of travelers are cursing angry mother nature, I for one am selfishly thankful that for once I am not caught in the midst of it. I have a horrendous record of travel mishaps, be they by air, land or sea, and I wonder whether, by this, my own luck might not be shifting in that department. I’ll get a chance to test my theory in about a month, although if this unpronounceable volcano continues to belch monstrous clouds of noxious ash into the air then maybe not.

Volcanoes have always scared the living hell out of me. When I was little, I remember watching a National Geographic special on the ancient city of Pompeii: its customs, its art, its people and especially, its horrific annihilation by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. To this day, images of fossilized skeletons in the fetal position still pop into my mind whenever I hear about erupting volcanoes. As I grew up in the mountains, with a particularly large one visible right outside of my family’s living room window, the story of Pompeii’s tragic demise took roughly five seconds to convince my seven-year-old imagination that that juggernaut across the way—whose name just so happens to be Volcan—was a sleeping Vesuvius II and that it was only a matter of time before we all ended up like those poor wretches of antiquity. In reality, Volcan Mountain is not actually a volcano, but try explaining that nuance to a child who has just been subjected to this. Thank you, National Geographic.

I actually went to Naples last October, and despite being assured that there was no immediate reason to worry that Vesuvius would spontaneously awaken and kill everyone within a 12 km radius during my brief stay, I can’t say that I felt particularly at ease with its menacing silhouette bearing down on the city, either. Nor was I terribly disappointed to “not have the time” to visit Pompeii itself, and this despite my fascination with ancient history. What can I say? Mother nature will always have the last word, so maybe it’s best to just stay out of her way. Look at how this current eruption has taken the intricately choreographed ballet that is modern air traffic engineering and transformed it into thousands of grounded flights, legions of apoplectic travelers living out their own personal versions of The Terminal, and all manner of hand-wringing, finger-pointing and name-calling from governments, travel authorities and airline executives across the planet. It makes me think that all those disaster movies that I generally snub are probably fairly accurate in their depiction of the world’s reaction should anything TRULY serious happen (alien invasion, for example). It would probably be pure chaos.

But let’s look at the bright side. Aliens probably won’t attack us any time soon, and in a couple of weeks the international air space will probably be back to normal. And I bet trips to Iceland will be REALLY CHEAP for quite some time. Not that I’d go. Shudder.