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.