I know I've just done a blog on this, but I had to blog today's experience, because it made my day.
First, this encounter was with a chap (Obi) manning a charity stall at the supermarket entrance. Compliments paid therefore have an element of 'persuade her to give money', but I like to think there was some sincerity in what he said.
It had been raining. I love being out after summer rain. I love the cool air, the sound my wheels make, the freshness of the world. And I had to buy stuff for dinner.
So I went in to town.
The carpark was wet, with a light spray being thrown up by my wheels as I sped across the smooth, flat, surface at 'cruising speed'. This means that I engage my core muscles, lean forward and accelerate hard, building up a bit of momentum, then, still leaning strongly forward I maintain the speed with long, easy pushes, using my whole upper body and letting my hands swing forward before looping back at the end of each push.
It is a pushing style that I love - and one influenced by watching David Weir. And when rolling along like that I feel I could take the world on and win. I might only be able to maintain it over a short distance, but I feel like I'm flying - every muscle dances in time, perfectly in tune with the wheels, to let me move in a way that is indescribably powerful, free, and alive.
Anyway, I reached the supermarket and pulled my usual handbrake-turn to pick up a basket and slow to a more pedestrian pace.
"Excuse me, are you a paralympian?" asked a voice.
I looked up and saw him. Tall, and to be honest, rather handsome. I grinned.
"Seriously, are you an athlete?"
"No, I'm not".
First his face registered disappointment. "Oh, I was gonna ask for your autograph". Then embarrassment. "Sorry, I thought...you know....I mean....I've never seen a wheelchair user so full of energy....and you look so alive....and confident....and the way you were pushing....and....I thought....I thought that kind of slope-y out wheels....were...well...specialist sports ones..." Apparently I was inspirational too.
Oh. My. Word.
Talk about a compliment!
Nothing he said sounded like it came from pity or low expectations. He didn't see the wheels and think 'poor you'. He saw me. He saw life, joy, speed and confidence. And then he saw the wheels - and registered them not as an aid for a poor person who can't walk, but as a piece of sports kit. Which is fair enough given that it is technically an old basketball/sports chair with a 6degree camber.
Funnily enough I didn't mind him thinking I looked full of energy despite my seriously depleted energy supplies.
It is strange, but oddly uplifting, to think that my beloved 'cruising speed' brightened up the day for someone who had, by his own admission, never spoken to a wheelchair user before.
I rather like this 'being mistaken for a paralympian' lark. And perhaps, sometimes, I don't mind being inspirational either.