“Man, the weirdest thing happened to me this afternoon,” Ruod says as we pull weeds.
“Weird in a good way?” I ask, wiping sweat from my brow with my sleeve.
“Strangely enough, I think so. But tell me what you think,” he says, then launches into his recount of this thing.
“So I was walking down the street by the water treatment facility,” he begins. “When out of nowhere this lady suddenly confronts me. She’s masked with a bandana and wearing something like ski goggles, demanding in a low, assertive voice that I open my mind. ‘Open it, now,’ she was practically hissing at me. At first, I had no idea what was going on, but she kept insisting in this eerily menacing way, saying stuff like, ‘Come on, do it. Hurry up and open your mind.’ I thought she was crazy and wanted to make a run for it but worried she’d chase me or something. Then she flashed this collection of neurosis-inducing media coverage, and I figured I’d better do as she said – seemed like I was pretty much in trouble either way. So I opened my mind, and she kept saying, ‘Wider, wider.’ I was getting totally freaked out at this point. Then she grabbed some of my stereotypes and hurled them to the sidewalk. Those that weren’t immediately shattered, she crushed with striking counterexamples, like salient and paragon exemplars. Then she ran off.”
“Wow, that sounds intense and distressing,” I remark with the feeling that this somehow seems familiar – reminiscent of something. “Are you okay?”
“I’m still a bit rattled. But I actually feel better than before this bizarre. . . encounter. My thoughts are much clearer and less fettered. Fewer fallacies, I think – like, I’m not reaching the same biased conclusions I was before, and now I can see how skewed those were.”
“Man, crazy. So the incident was harrowing but had a positive outcome,” I surmise.
“I suppose that was the effect this masked lady wanted to achieve,” I muse, thoughts of my friend Jozine coming to mind.
“Yeah, maybe even worth her disconcerting imposition on my mental freedom,” he says, as I think back to a recent phone conversation with Jozine. . .
“Dude,” she said the moment I picked up the receiver. “You want to go break some stereotypes?”
“Someone you know having stereotype problems?” I asked.
“Well, you know, there are always some causing trouble, somewhere.”
“So why don’t you use linguistic solvents? Just dissolve them and save yourself the trouble of involved labor.”
“Sometimes that’s too slow, and it’s not as satisfying as smashing.”
“Yeah, I know that’s your preferred form of stereotype nullification, but I don’t want to see you get hurt by the shards again.”
“I have protective gear now,” she said quickly.
I sighed heavily and had to ask, “Are you feeling upset or stressed?” There was a long pause, and she finally admitted, “Yeah, I am.”
“I’m all for eliminating stereotypes, but if you’re doing it to feel better about something, I’m not sure that’s really a good idea. Transference can be–”
“I don’t see why I can’t have these two desires of mine coincide,” she protested. “We all have to blow some steam, and it’s better for everyone if we get rid of stereotypes.”
“It seems like it could be a hazardous combination,” I cautioned.
“I’ll be careful,” she assured me, but I wasn’t so sure that she could really uphold such a promise.
“Let’s go surf instead,” I suggested. “Or play squash.”
“Well, maybe,” she said. “Let me think about it.”
Half an hour later, we were wielding our racquets in one of the recre- ation center squash courts.
“You think that was some vigilante?” Ruod asks. “One of those psychological ones?”
“You mean cognitive,” I correct.
“Oh, yeah, I guess so. Have you heard anything about this kind of thing happening?”
“Um, only in passing.”
“Anything about who that lady is or what she’s doing?”
“No,” I say a little too quickly, staring out at the field of crops, like an ocean of cultivated vegetation undulating in the hot summer wind.