She rolled past me so fast that at first I didn't realize who or what she was.
The wheelchairs I'm used to seeing are usually cumbersome and slow moving and need someone to push them, but this young lady had the equivalent of a sports wheelchair, a kind of small chair on large wheels, which she projected forward with her hands at incredible speed.
I was in the boarding line at Ben-Gurion Airport, waiting to board the plane to London, when this young lady, in her mid 20s I would guess, flew past us all. As the rest of us slowly moved forward and eventually were allowed to embark on the plane, she remained with the check-in crew laughing and joking.
I was trying to stuff my carry-on bag into the hatch above my seat when suddenly, there she was sliding her legless body along the narrow aisle, propelling herself along with her hands. Surprisingly she wasn't allocated an aisle seat but was in the middle, and grabbing hold of the armrests she flipped her body agilely over the outer seat and the startled passenger sitting there and plopped into the middle seat assigned to her.
She introduced herself to her startled neighbors as the flight attendant took her dismantled sports chair and put it at the back of the plane. Sitting behind her for the duration of the flight I was aware of her warm voice, happy and friendly demeanor and natural laughter which immediately endeared her to her travel companions. She was discussing all the places she wanted to see and visit in England, and no one doubted for one moment that she'd manage it all.
A quick word in the flight attendant's ear and the aisle was cleared so she could slide at lightening speed to the rest room unassisted, and back again.
We disembarked at London's Heathrow Airport and wound our long way along the interminable walkway to the luggage pick-up point. Suddenly, there was a rush of wind and there she was whizzing past us, her hands flying over those large wheels, her backpack tied to the back of her chair.
She waved to us all, her new friends, and was off in the distance way ahead of us.
I couldn't help smiling to myself. In normal terminology she was handicapped or physically challenged. But in terms of her attitude and mobility, compared to us schlepping along behind her, it was hard to think of her as such. She seemed happy, agile and unencumbered.
And I bet she had a great vacation.