While reading a recent news story about the low morale at Northwest Airlines, I felt badly for those employees whose salaries and benefits have been cut, for I know how tough it is surviving in this corporate hellhole we call home. Then, after a few moments of empathy, I began to feel for someone else: me. See, I'm flying on Northwest in a couple of weeks, and reports of curt, rude treatment of passengers by NWA's staff does little to soothe my nerves. And when I fly, my nerves must be soothed, as I'm all too conscious that I'm being shot through space at 500 mph at 35,000 feet surrounded by highly-combustible jet fuel. I usually sit near a wing, so I can stare at the engine bolts, waiting for them to pop off and sending us screaming to a fiery death. This is why I require the calmest atmosphere a commercial carrier can provide. I've always had some fear of flying. There was a period of my life when I traveled strictly by Amtrak, figuring that if the train crashed, we were already on the ground, so there was a better chance of survival. But Amtrak had its share of problems, what with smelly cars, mildew in the bathrooms, food riots in the dining car, dog fights in the sleepers. Still, it was better than streaking though the clouds, anticipating an explosion or mid-air collision while choking down microwaved grilled chicken (and there's my obligatory airplane food joke, which really isn't a joke -- just a cheap line added to extreme paranoia, which is no laughing matter either, truth be told). After 9/11, no trains, no buses, cabs, or cars, and definitely no planes. I walked everywhere, carrying a large knife. No jihadist was gonna jump me, much less some criminal commuters sizing me up as they passed by. After Richard Abul Raheem Reid's shoe bomb stunt, I walked barefoot and carried a machete. My feet got pretty cut-up at times, but this further enhanced my cover, and kept any potential attacker at a distance. Plus, without shoes, I eliminated the possibility of attack from below. After my wife threatened divorce, I learned to keep my fear in check when flying: Now I expect an explosion only once per flight, so progress is being made. But I'm afraid of what I might encounter on my upcoming flight, and wish to tell any Northwest employees reading this that if it were up to me, you'd all get fat raises and benefits out the ass. It's not as if you're school teachers, for Christ's sake. Your jobs are important. (I'm not the only traveler who feels that way, right, readers?) And to you Northwest mechanics and maintenance personnel, please know that I'm staunchly pro-union and have worked many blue collar jobs myself. I only ask that you don't take your justified anger against your corporate pig bosses out on us -- well, me, anyway -- by "overlooking" some safety feature that helps keep the plane in the air. I'm not afraid of dying, just terrified to die in a plane crash. Also, I'd like to live to see my son get into Second City. Thanks in advance. You all do great work. If flying were like this now, being killed in a crash or explosion wouldn't be so bad -- certainly better than dying in your car. Yeah, as if your ride has all these perks.