"Can I help you with that?" Carie offered.
I handed her the bottle across the chasm of an empty middle seat.
To my surprise, delight, and maybe some chagrin, she deftly peeled the atomic coating off of the bottle top. What I didn't realize at the time was that she held a tremendous advantage over me; she works at a convenience store and handles this kind of stuff all the time. This episode continued briefly when I also realized that removing the plastic cap on the battle presented a challenge. Smiling, Carie helped with that, too. (I thought she was very kind inasmuch as she restrained herself from pointing and laughing hysterically at me.)
Well--having quenched my thirst, I struck a conversation with Carie. She must have been raised well and with good manners, because she obviously resisted the urge to roll over in her seat with her pillow and just go to sleep. Instead, she proceeded to engage in conversation with me from Minneapolis to Oakland, including a layover in Denver. The result was, for me, one of the most enjoyable flights I have had in a long time. Sometimes traveling alone is a good thing. There is always the chance of that chance meeting that yields a memorable and fun story.
And I'm sure that Carie has much to talk about also. Understand that she is in her mid-twenties and I am 62. I was thus able to offer her six and a half hours of a lifetime of advice on just about everything she needs to do in life, including what to study in school, where to travel, when to travel, with whom to travel, how to deal with boy friends, and much more that I can't remember.
Such experiences make traveling fun. I hope to have many more like it. And I hope Carie does, too--but next time maybe with a twenty-something guy on the other side of the middle seat.