Recently I met a fellow in my building at work for the first time and as we were both heading for the elevator I engaged him in conversation about his interests outside the workplace.
“I raise canaries,” he said.
That’s not what I heard, though. I thought he said that he raced canaries.
“You race canaries?” I said with mild surprise.
“Yes,” he said. “A lot of guys in this area raise canaries.”
At this point I was struggling to envision what a canary racetrack looked like.
“Do you race them outdoors?” I enquired.
“No, I raise them in my basement,” he said.
Still clueless, I tried to make sense of this new piece of information. I pictured a smoky den filled with canary owners betting on the outcome of the next race.
“Do you use an enclosed track?” I asked in all sincerity, assuming that you couldn’t train canaries to independently fly in an oval path.
“Yes, I have wire cages,” he said which made perfect sense if you raise canaries rather than race them.
I, on the other hand, pictured a giant, enclosed, wire-mesh, oval track suspended from his basement ceiling. I also pictured a whole subculture of canary racers much in the fashion of dogsled owners. If people can race dogs or even pigeons, I reasoned, why not canaries?
The elevator stopped at my floor and I got off, my mind still reeling with visions of the third race at the canary equivalent to Churchill Downs. A co-worker who witnessed the entire exchange with glee clued me in to my mistake and brought me back to reality.
“Racing canaries” made a great tale for a couple of days. But after awhile, I started wondering. If I hadn’t gotten off that elevator, how much longer would our conversation in parallel universes have gone on? Was there a limit? How far into canary racing wonderland would I have descended? Unfortunately, I’ll probably never know.