I cannot come to work today, I have volcanic dust… How to manage in NYC when a volcano erupts in Iceland.

A few years back, in 2010, you must all remember the big volcanic ash cloud that boomed out of Iceland and affected flights and travel plans galore across the globe. Myself included.

On a mini break with some family to New York City, after 3 nights of splashing the cash and seeing the sights it was time to pack up and leave. On the morning of our departure, all was well until Grant, my step bro, returned from making a call to tell us to switch on the news. We did as we were told to find out that the ever so easy to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull volcano had popped its’ top. Thus resulting in serious travel concerns. Not really realising the severity of the situation I knocked on my Mother’s room and told her to take a look at the news. She did. She made the call to American Airlines. All planes OFF, for up to TWO WEEKS!!! Laugh or cry were the two options here (laugh won). With barely any money, but luckily a credit card, and our hotel charging some hefty whack, we had to come up with a plan. As we weren’t going home any time soon, we headed into the city library and logged onto their PCs. I was browsing for hostels and the like when a member of the party found some sort of East side apartment at a ludicrously cheap price (turns out the price was accidentally listed at half rate, tehe) So we booked that up straight away for 4 nights and we set off.

Upon arriving it was all quite comical and we unpacked into our little shack, complete with a door through one bedroom into a strangers room. It had a miniscule kitchen and, to our delight, a PC which meant we could get regular updates on the situ at hand. Asides from bed bugs and cockroaches, the place did the job.

The next challenge, was to spend another 4 days in NYC with no cash. Well, nearly no cash. We spent a lot of time wandering through Central Park, walking around the city, going to a couple of free museums and the like. It turned out to be a great experience seeing New York with out spending. With food we went to a local pizzeria, we went to the supermarket and cooked meals and we drank coffee. It was all quite lovely and I was beginning to feel a tiny bit like a full blown New Yorker, in my east side apartment cooking dinner…

Then the 4 days were up. The ash had not relented but we had no option but to move into the good old airport. Since this experience, and a couple of times before, I have slept in airports. Normally the scenario is find a few chairs without annoying arm rests. This, however, was a different experience all together. With regards to airport sleeping, this was luxurious. We arrived to find a large number of people already camped out.

We were given red cross beds, pillows and blankets and we set up base. A little van would come and collect us and take us to some porta showers that were set up, complete with a bag of toiletries. The Belgian embassy (who by far trumped the British embassy on every possible scale) provided food, books, children’s stuff. An amazing New Yorker who owned a deli in the city, saw our plight on the news and sent in so much delicious grub. The kindness of strangers was incredible. After the first night underneath bright lights and the stares of people arriving into the terminal, a member of the party decided to take action and arranged for lights out for the night.

The second day there was hope that some airplanes may be taking off, and one going to Paris. There was a limited number of seats available. We all rounded up the Brits and we were all willing (about 30 of us) to fly to Paris and hire some sort of mini bus home. This didn’t come through but the community spirit was buzzing! The next day we finally got the news we were after when we found out a plane would be flying to London. After watching the screens constantly for the 2 days to have our hopes dashed by CANCELLED on every London bound flight, we were over the moon. I mean, things were not bad in NYC but everyone needed to be home for various reasons including exams, university, and running a business. Luckily, after a few tense moments when they read the names of the fortunate passengers who would be on board, we were all called out. We were rushed through customs and the airport and half hour later we were on board and en route to London!

To make things even better, my travel insurance that was provided for free with HSBC as part of my student banking, payed out and covered nearly all our expenses. So, our 3 day trip to New York turned into a 9 day extravaganza.

Moral of the story here: when disrupted by volcanic dust, do not dwell, instead make constant jokes about the situation and relish the experience!


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