I am always intrigued by a sales pitch which tells me such and such place is a mere five-minute walk from the nearest shopping mall/cinema/bank.
When I read this, I want to know who's been doing the walking and what pace was set. My idea of a leisurely walk might be another's quick step.
Of course, it is usually the other way round when it involves walking with male members of my family.
They are the kind who never stop to smell the roses. Getting from point A to point B in the quickest time possible is their idea of fun.
I was impressed with my father's self-discipline. He was up by sunrise every day and went for a long walk armed with his walking stick, a habit he had got used to in the army.
When he returned from his constitutional he would tell us the distance he had covered that day. The figure he came up with was formidable and, in a weak moment, I decided to emulate his example.
The next morning saw me bright-eyed and bushy tailed, or almost. After a mere five minutes, I realised his strides were giant-sized and there was no way I could keep up.
In a breathless voice, I asked him to slow down and he complied. Briefly. Soon he had resumed his normal pace and I found myself breaking into a run every few minutes to catch up.
This wasn't my idea of a walk. Where was the leisurely stroll I was used to, stopping every now and then to say hello to neighbours on a similar exercise or to admire a particularly flamboyant gulmohar tree?
Each time a turning towards our house came into view, hope sprang within me, willing him to take that road and end my ordeal. But there was always another road to be explored, another agonising distance to be trudged.
Suffice it to say that my desire to share this experience with my father was but a short-lived one. After a week of not daring to give up for fear of being ridiculed, I soon called it quits.
My evening ambles with like-minded friends were soon resumed, with feet that slowed as conversation and laughter flowed, although no records were broken with regard to the length of the walk.
To return to the measuring of distance, I have always been in awe of those who, when asked how far this place is from that, are able to come up with answers such as 'five furlongs' or '150 metres'.
How do they do that, I wonder, even as my mind works at a feverish pace, trying to imagine how much a metre is and multiplying that by 150.
Lost in translation, I summon up the courage to say, "Can you tell me if that is the same distance as from here to City Centre?" Even as the question is formed, I wait for the derisive glance as the person tries to fathom whether I am being obtuse on purpose or merely ignorant. Seeing the perplexity on my face, I am then given an explanation in terms even my mean intelligence can grasp.
So, imagine my joy, during the course of a conversation with a male friend, when a query on distance arose and I was asked not to answer in metres or yards as he had a hard time trying to visualise this. Staring at him in utter disbelief, I was taken aback by this admission of inadequacy by a man. Was he actually admitting to not knowing something? Deciding not to look a gift horse in the mouth I was able to enlighten him on the subject using my tried and tested method of citing a comparable distance between two known points or landmarks. The instant comprehension on his face as the information registered was reward enough. I wasn't in the minority after all.