Eyjafjallajoekull: the name says it all, doesn't it? No, of course it doesn't. It looks like a kitten walked across your keyboard. It's the name of the glacier covering the volcano in Iceland that just woke up and remembered that its job description says "Spew hot lava ash across northwestern Europe". I'm at Boston's Logan Airport, where the lights are going out one by one on the board showing international departures to Europe. Airspace is shutting down, flight by flight by flight.
The annotation beside my own flight to London Heathrow this afternoon says "Delayed: see agent" at the moment (there are no agents, of course; they are in hiding); but it will probably be canceled soon. And all the airports in Scotland, where I live, have been closed since the beginning of the day. The life of a jet-setting blogger and lecturer may seem glamorous to you (especially if you were in the warm and welcoming surroundings of the luxurious Metcalf Chemistry Auditorium in Providence on Tuesday night), but in fact it's a hard life. You need stamina; you need resilience and an ability to cope with adversity. And frankly, I wish God would grant me his precious gift of patience right now.
Anyway, listen: I am likely to be available to give lectures in the New England area over the next few days at a massively reduced fee. Your people won't even need to call my people. Just get in touch by email (you know how). We can deal. Forget the usual fee, the limo, the other contract details, all of it. The package only has to include one thing: overnight accommodation. A bed. Or at least a bench of some kind. In fact a blanket is all it will take to beat what Logan has to offer. I do not want to spend this weekend in Terminal E. (By the way, it might be more than a weekend. In 1821, the volcano under Eyjafjallajoekull was active for two years.)
I just spoke for a while to a TV reporter covering the developing story in the departure hall here (Boston area viewers: does my hair look OK?), and he asked me if this experience had given me "a new respect for volcanoes". Where do they get these insane questions? I told him I despise volcanoes. Most of all the one under Eyjafjallajoekull.
Update 3:25 p.m.: Generous Language Log readers in the Boston area are sending emails already (I have a Gmail account with my surname as the login), with offers of beds, dinners, even an invitation to give a talk (at the end of a week toward the end of the semester at the end of the year, that seemed a slim hope when I suggested it!). The facts on the ground are that British Airways does not know whether they will be flying out of here tonight or not. It depends on judgments by meteorologists at London Heathrow about whether the air will be safe for a jet to fly into tomorrow morning, and they are reporting on that at 6 p.m. So everything remains uncertain.