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As Iceland volcano ash lingers over Europe, stranded travelers' patience wanes

Planes across most of Western Europe were grounded for a fourth day Sunday as a cloud of ash from last week's Iceland volcano continues to hang in the air above. Stranded travelers are losing time, money – and patience.

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Some were stressed because they needed to get back to their offices.

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Others were stressed because this had been their opportunity to get away from their offices.

Some had weddings to attend. Others, funerals.

Couples were arguing. Babies were crying. Siblings were punching each other. Airline representatives were, it would seem, by and large AWOL.

'Not ideal'

The whole thing, as was put in typically English understatement by William and Gloria Rogers – who were headed to New Zealand for their long awaited retirement trip – was “not ideal.”

“We considered a terror attack, but this – Oh no, this is too much,” Mr. Rogers said.

Tent cities

Where there any bright spots? Anything learned? Any random acts of kindness and neighborliness to shore up one’s faith in human nature during times of trouble?

Well, two Dutch guys with tents and camping gear heading to a trek in Nepal got friendly with two American contractors, on their way home to Florida after a year in Afghanistan. The contractors also had tents and the little group got together and set up a tent city near the Marks and Spencer mini store in Terminal 3.

“Nice tents,” remarked Tony Dorgan, a Turkish farmer stuck on his way to Izmir, where he was returning to take care of his 7000 olive trees. “Tell me stories from Afghanistan,” he requested, and ordered a pizza special to share with the group.

Abdulla Alhajr, from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, wandered by and eyed the tents enviously. Trying to get home after three months at English language school in Bournemouth, he had been sleeping on the floor near the deserted Virgin Information desk with his five friends since Thursday. “I wish we had tents. We just have towels,” he sighed.

Mr. Alhajr and his friends think the whole volcanic ash thing is, but of course, a conspiracy.

“This is a ploy by the British to get foreigners to spend more money in the country,” he explained to Maria Seller, a Canadian who runs the shoe department at Sears in Edmonton, Alberta and was trying to get home after a holiday in Romania, and Gracella Rodriguez, an elderly Spanish woman, stranded after coming up to London for a one day cardiologist appointment.