Every time I step foot onto an airplane, I order a ginger-ale. It has become a sort of ritual of air travel for me; thinking about the peculiar difference between ginger-ale and 7 Up is preferable to reflecting on the knowledge that I am trapped inside of a giant metal box several thousand feet above Earth. So it happens like clockwork that every time the flight attendant asks me if I'd like anything, I always ask for ginger-ale.
One notices things on an airplane when flying alone that one normally would not notice while flying with friends or family, who serve as excellent distractions. One notices how people behave, how people act. And yet, people watching in an airplane is about as productive as watching an ant colony: one merely observes those things that one already is aware of, such as the look of dread on the face of the man across the row.
This flight in particular lasted only an hour (it was a connecting flight from Dallas to Austin), but that did not stop the two women in my row from quickly becoming the best of friends—in fact, they talked as if they were old friends. As to what sparked their initial conversation, I haven't the faintest clue. Perhaps the older woman felt obligated to exchange some sort of pleasantry, or perhaps the younger woman had already read the novel the old woman was thumbing through. Quite frankly, I do not know.
What I do know is that for that entire hour, two strangers let one another glimpse past the armor of anonymity which we all don when traveling in public. Inevitably, the plane begins to descend and these two travel companions will part ways, each assuming that she will never cross paths with her newly made friend again. It is a bittersweet moment. On one hand, there is happiness in knowing that one has finally reached one's destination. On the other hand, there is some sadness because one has just spent an entire hour making a new friend only to leave her by the wayside upon landing.
That's the problem with a single-serving friend; the only thing linking the two travelers is their geographic location. Once that is removed, each becomes only another face in the crowd. But maybe it was different this time: both of them could have been lying through their teeth just so that they might claim to be someone they are not, even if only for an hour.