If there's one thing in life I excel at it's saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. Now, I don't even make excuses or apologise, I just shrug and own up to my faux pas: it makes for an easier life. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I'd kept my mouth shut.
Where I live appears to be a veritable magnet for the Bad Back Brigade. Like migrating wildebeest they descend on the area in their thousands; smoking cigarettes, lugging huge crates of Carling and mowing lawns before digging and laying driveways for their multitude of mobility scheme cars. You always know when the fraud squad are about because a magical forest of walking sticks suddenly appears overnight. Broken and bent are their users, wailing pitifully as they shuffle and stumble for the cameras. It truly is a remarkable sight, a David Attenborough-esque marvel.
Occasionally I come across one of the rarer breeds of the species at my local train station. As I hobble with one or two sticks (depending on the day) the 150 yards+ from where I've parked I see them jogging from yonder disable-bays,large suitcases and heavy laptop bags slung over their shoulders. .
Not that I'm bitter you understand. Not at all. By now I'm used to getting up at 5.30am to give my hands time to de-stiffen so I can make coffee, shower, apply makeup and style my hair. Taking a liver-rotting cocktail of toxic drugs to keep me working is old hat, as is crawling to work in extreme pain after only an hour or two of unbroken sleep. After all, I wouldn't want my employers to think I was a burden or - worse - a slacker. The fact that I couldn't get a Blue Badge because I wasn't deemed to be a) nearly dead, b) bedridden or c) in a permanent vegetative state doesn't bother me at all, neither does the fact that my chances of claiming DLA or any kind of disability-related benefit are similar to my winning £21million on the lottery at the same time that Johnny Depp proposes and my disease is totally cured.
I'm fine with scraping my car in the ice and snow (even though it makes me cry) while the other residents lie in their warm beds in their warm houses - paid for with my taxes. Even a wheelchair-using colleague (severe spinal degeneration) is fine with struggling to work on public transport so she can manage her 10 to 15 learning and physically disabled staff, because if she didn't do it nobody else would (and then who would advocate for the thousands of severely disabled citizens in this fine city?)
No, what I am bitter about is that I've spent the last two years cursing the Bad Back Brigade and their apparent health, wealth and luck as I struggle because I think I may - just may - have jinxed myself.
In a monumental case of Sod's Law I spent most of Monday this week in excruciating pain which I knew to be a trapped nerve or similar. Self-diagnosis is never recommended but from the symptoms it was pretty apparent I had a dysfunctional sacroiliac joint. Later than evening it was confirmed by my GP. Ten quid to the first person who can guess what chronic, degenerative disease can cause sacroiliac dysfunction?
As Kirk said to the Romulan Nero in the recent Star Trek movie before he destroyed the mining ship, you got it.
"Are you still working?" my rheumy nurse asked.
"I have a large mortgage and can't get income protection. Take a wild guess," was my response.
So as of next week I undergo another battery of tests, x-rays and scans to confirm what I already know: that the disease is eating away the tissues in my spinal joints and I have a life of severe back pain and disability ahead of me. I now have to put in place a plan to pay all my debts within five years - if I manage to keep working that long.
But hey, it's not all bad news: at least I now have something in common with all my neighbours.
And next time, if you hear me giving out about a particular section of society would you be sure to tell me to shut up?