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Apr 19, 2010 at 08:26 PM

Passengers mob train ticket machines

It took the Italian media a few days to catch up with the rest of Europe and the U.S. in giving significant coverage to the volcanic ash drama; on Saturday several people to whom I mentioned the fact that at that very moment I was supposed to be on a flight to Paris but hadn't been able to leave, didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about.

Since then, however, the media here, too, have been talking about little else and everyone seems to know what's going on. The TV has been repeatedly showing pictures of the cots set up in several Italian airports for stranded travellers and the amazingly long lines at the Rome central train station made up of people, in large part foreign visitors, trying to get back home to points north and being told that for the next several days no seats were available. (Me, I went online Saturday morning when my EasyJet flight was cancelled and bought a just-in-case ticket for the Tuesday night train to Paris which I now have to use since a second plane reservation for Sunday evening also went belly-up as Paris airports remained closed.) At the moment, in fact, the Rome Fiumicino airport is one of the few in Europe along with Madrid and Athens) to be functioning - that is, for incoming flights from areas not affected by the clouds of volcanic ash.

But not everyone here really cares, or seems to appreciate just what this unprecedented event (in modern times) means for the European economy, and not just the European economy alone. Hundreds of thousands of people here, as elsewhere, have never been on a plane and have no plans to do so soon. But they probably have no idea not only how much the Italian economy depends on tourism, nor of the degree to which almost all of us have now become used to products, and produce, that is flown in from elsewhere. We are, indeed, all part of a global economy whose existence is being threatened by an eruption of a volcano with an unpronounceable name in a tiny country that many people have never heard of or if so, only vaguely.

And isn't it amazing that with all modern man is capable of, no one has come up with a way to turn off a volcano. Chiffon Margerine used to tell us "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature". Perhaps not, but if we could fool with her on this type of occasion our lives would be much easier.

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