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Fear of flying - Peter Funt

Juan Williams lost his gig at National Public Radio for saying in complete candor that when he boards a plane and sees people in Muslim garb, he gets "worried" and "nervous."

Well, it's a good thing I never applied for work at NPR, because I wouldn't last a minute.

When I board a plane and see a dangerously overweight person heading down the aisle toward the seat next to me, I get nervous. When I see a woman with an unticketed infant who's screaming before the five-hour flight even begins, I get worried.

I also get worried and nervous when airlines turn flights around in under 30 minutes without taking time to clean the seating areas. I fill with fear when one guy keeps fiddling with his cell phone, even after the crew says they must be turned off.

I panic when it seems that the woman with the hacking cough directly behind me has a condition that should be treated at a hospital rather than at 35,000 feet.

Does Juan Williams ever become nervous when people board with huge backpacks, slamming passengers on each side of the aisle without even blinking? Does he worry when someone tries to lift a 75-pound suitcase out of the storage bin directly above his head?

Do NPR executives have concerns about the smell in airplane bathrooms? Do they worry that the person sitting right next to them may have paid half as much for the very same flight?

Is the NPR news department nervous about the fact that U.S. airports have been at "Condition Orange" for something like a thousand straight days? I'll bet Juan Williams is.

Am I the only one who gets worried when there's a random airport test showing that half the passengers carrying machetes go undetected?

Is it fair to be nervous immediately upon discovering that the person sitting in the middle seat to your right has brought onboard a two-foot sub sandwich -- with extra onions, garlic and gooey sauce -- and plans on consuming it, along with a 36-ounce drink, even before takeoff? Isn't this the same person who immediately removes his shoes and socks?

Will NPR listeners admit to being at least slightly nervous when reaching into the seat pocket in front of them without knowing how many heavily-used Kleenexes are stuffed in there?

Am I the only person to ever sit near an exit row and conclude that the guy who just agreed to help the crew in the event of an emergency looks a lot like George Costanza, ready to bolt out first if something goes wrong?

Speaking of things going wrong, can you still be employed at NPR after admitting that a "water landing" in the middle of the Atlantic sounds like a very high-risk proposition?

How worrisome is it that in 2010 many airline passengers still require formal preflight instruction about how to insert the flat metal end of a seatbelt into the buckle part?

Be honest, does it make you nervous when the John Candyesque guy to your left starts to doze off on your shoulder? And snore?

Does it concern you when the person behind you repeatedly pounds his knee into your seat? Does it worry you that the person in front keeps slamming backwards, just after you poured your Coke?

Are you ever worried about excessive flatulence by closely clustered passengers in a tiny cabin?

Now that Juan Williams has received a new $2 million contract from Fox News, and considering that he'll have more time on his hands without the NPR job, there's no limit to the things he can tell viewers he worries about when boarding a plane. Unless, of course, he ever discloses that he fears the pilot is a Conservative. That would undoubtedly get him fired at Fox.

This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He's also the long-time host of "Candid Camera." He may be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.