The student commons of Ancora University opened onto a scenic quad surrounded by centuries old, ivy covered brick buildings. Arvid sat a table in the commons cafeteria near the Caffeine Palace Café. He checked his watch. It was 8:25, five minutes before his scheduled tutorial session.
A man Arvid’s age approached wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane.
“Arvid? Are you Arvid?”
Arvid stood up and led him to a chair. “Yes, hi. Are you Bruce?”
“I sure am. Pleased to meet you,” said Bruce.
“Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water?” asked Arvid.
“No, no. I’m good, thanks,” said Bruce. He opened his bag and pulled out a sociology textbook. “So, you want help with the social sciences. Not a problem.”
“I don’t understand any of this stuff. Wait, your book isn’t in brail. Can you see to read?” Arvid said, raising an eyebrow.
Bruce laughed. “Of course, the cane.”
“And the sunglasses.”
“My vision’s fine. Twenty/twenty.”
“Oh,” said Arvid flatly.
“Lemme guess. You wanna know why…”
Arvid held up his hand, stopping Bruce’s explanation. “No, I don’t. I don’t care. All I want is to pass sociology with at least a ‘B’.”
“A ‘B’? I’ll be disappointed if you don’t get an ‘A’. It’s easy once you know how to play the game.”
“What game? This isn’t a game.”
“Of course it is. Education’s all just a great big game.”
Arvid immediately packed up his books and stood to leave.
“Wait, let me explain,” said Bruce.
Arvid glared intently at him.
“When I took the very same course you’re taking now, I got a ninety-five. One of the assignments was a paper, five thousand words or something like that. I didn’t really wanna do it, so I changed the assignment,” said Bruce enthusiastically.
“No, seriously. I went to my TA and asked if I could do a survey on gender and study habits. I knew she was into that sorta thing, so she totally bought it. It took, like, fifteen minutes to do. I asked a bunch of my friends some questions and wrote up their answers. Bingo, bango, and there’s my ‘A’.”
Arvid sat back down cautiously. “This helps me how?”
“Look, I don’t know how it is in your field, but around here no body cares what you think. They want you to care what they think,” said Bruce.
“Yeah, it’s true for me, too.”
Bruce’s eyes widened. “If you make them believe you care about their little field of interest, they’ll fall all over themselves to give you an ‘A’. That’s how the game is played.”
“You’re very cynical,” said Arvid with a wry smile.
“I prefer the term ‘shockingly prudent’. Truth is, the whole world works this way,” said Bruce.
“I don’t believe that.”
“It’s true.” Bruce held up his cane and sunglasses. “I haven’t paid for bus fare in three years. It’s no charge for people with disabilities.”
“That’s fraud. It’s wrong.”
“It’s the system. People fall all over themselves to help and I give them the chance to feel good about themselves. It’s as simple as that. I don’t wish to reform the system, or rebel against it. I want to manipulate the system for my benefit,” said Bruce.
Arvid opened his mouth to speak, then paused. A look of understanding washed over his face. “You’re a guru.”
Bruce feigned humility. “Nah. I’m just a guy who realized that knowledge isn’t power. Power comes from knowledge, cleverly applied.”