Ash Cloud Debrief

I know I’m writing after the drama, when people aren’t craving the information anymore. But I can’t help it. I sat in Paris for a week and was simply unable to get myself organized and motivated to sit down and do anything productive. The sad part is, nor did I have the “free vacation” people imagine it was. Instead I spent my days listlessly, staying near the hotel in case the company called for us to work a flight out, trying to dig up food that wouldn’t break the bank (Note: baguettes do not retain their charm after eating them for a week straight), trying to attain prescriptions and arrange other unexpected details. So here we are, perhaps a day late but here nonetheless.

I’ve gotten a lot of rolled eyes and sarcastic sympathy from people, like the FedEx guy who was among those I had to call now that I’m home, trying to salvage packages (desperately wanted iPads! Sorry, hubby!) that have been shipped back to China in my mysterious absence (etc). It sounds great to be in Paris all that time, but…this was just weird.

I’m not whining – definitely not! I could have been many many worse places. And I at least had a nice hotel room, unlike the scores of people who were sleeping in the airports or emptying their bank accounts on a bed. But it was an odd sort of broke, jetlagged, unsettled, limbo.  At first there was no expense provision and we didn’t know how long we’d be there, living off our 1 set of clothes and $6 coffees.

After a couple of days the company offered $30 expenses (can you hear me cackle at the amount?), though I will say by my last day that went up to $100 (and since then the company has been really supportive). If only that had happened sooner, it would have changed everything. But oh well. Only point being that as it was, we spent a week twiddling our thumbs, not wanting to blow all our money, scared to go very far because what if they called us back all the sudden?

I was so close to hubby in England…and just couldn’t get there. I also have a lovely friend in Lyon – I am always longing to see her but a layover is too short for a $400 train trip. She just had a baby – what serendipity, huh? But I was afraid to go and have the company call me for a short notice flight. By the 4th day I said, “To hell with it, I could have been there for days!” But then the front desk rep informed me that the TGV trains were on strike. Can you believe it? Even if I could get a train out there, I had no guarantee of getting a train back when the company came a calling. I did, however, see some local friends and have one living on the very same street as our hotel who offered up his washing machine. I didn’t realize until then how relatively less isolated I was than the rest of the crew, who didn’t speak French, have a local cell phone or friends and had kids at home waiting anxiously. All in all I was pretty lucky.

Our last stranded crew members are making it home today. Shockingly, our flight had about 20 open seats, as we hear most of them did. It’s a shame with so many people stuck, but apparently there are so many people with 4, 5 or 6 multiple reservations that the airline has no way of knowing a pax won’t show up until the last minute and then it’s too late to call someone else – people who have been told to avoid the airports until they have a confirmed seat. And the airlines are not going to overbook these flights and risk turning anyone away after all that. So if you’re stuck, my advice is call call call and keep calling.

So here I am at home. These two nights I’ve been waking up a lot, stumbling towards the bathroom and ending up in the closet because I wake up thinking I’m in my Paris hotel room. Whoops.  And tonight I am headed back out, can you believe it? Going to salvage my 1st anniversary. Who would have thought I’d be excited to step back on a plane, but it’ll all be worth it for a nice romantic dinner…even if it’s just baguettes and $6 coffees.


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