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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Volcanic ash issues? Take 'em to Europe

By David Shapiro

Enough with this volcanic eruption in Iceland already.

Ever since it started spewing ash all over Europe, folks have been peppering me with headlines that blame me for more problems than the swine flu and global warming combined. I'm starting to understand what George W. Bush felt like.

First came an e-mail with this headline from The New York Times: "Volcanic Ash Halts Air Traffic Across Europe."

The writer added a pithy comment: "I didn't know you were traveling."

What really hurts is that it's the only way I'll ever get in The New York Times.

Then came this admonition from another correspondent, "We put up with you dissing our governor, but this is taking it too far!"

It linked to a Chicago Tribune headline: "Volcanic ash prompts Obama to cancel Poland trip."

The president should thank me. The NBA playoffs are tape delayed in Warsaw when they're shown at all. Funerals are supposed to be Joe Biden's job, anyway.

As the volcano gathered steam, the finger-pointing headlines started coming like bullets:

• "Volcanic ash forces school closures." Hey, don't blame me for furlough Fridays.

• "Volcanic ash clouds entertainment world." Who can tell the difference between that cloud and the dopey haze that usually envelops them?

• "Volcanic ash delays wounded troop flights." How about we take a break from wounding the troops?

• "Volcanic Ash May Hit Canada." Uh oh, I hope they don't hit back.

• "Volcanic ash dashes lofty plans for some." Only if you're a legislator hoping for another big pay raise.

• "Volcanic ash strands Virginia high school students in Paris." Aw, the poor babies.

• "Miley Cyrus, Usher Grounded By Volcanic Ash." It took a volcano to accomplish what good musical taste couldn't.

• "Farmers in Iceland try to protect herds from volcanic ash." I deny ever touching those sheep.

• " 'No tolerance' rule for volcanic ash." Since when is Mufi Hannemann making the rules in Europe?

• "Volcanic ash to health: harmful or not?" It depends on the thickness of your skin.

• "Volcanic ash is too hot to handle." I hope that isn't a comment on my job prospects.

• "Volcanic ash reaches ground level." Just when I was ready to float away on my headline-inflated ego.

I should have been more clear when I started this column 15 years ago and said I wanted something acerbic in a name. I intended that it be sharp and biting, not associate me with the destruction of the airline industry and the European economy.

There's a lesson to be learned from the belching Icelandic volcano. When you're named Eyjafjallajokull, you don't get blamed by name for anything.

I can point fingers at my wife, who actually came up with the column name after I enlisted her help in finding a catchy sig that reflected our Big Island roots.

The way the creative process worked was that she gamely threw out suggestions and I kept rejecting them until she got tired of it, called me a "volcanic !$@#&%!" and stomped off. A few letters were subtracted and, voila: Volcanic As-h---.

Now there's a headline I'd love to see written.