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I have been described with the “bull in a china closet” idiom. And here’s the counter punch. As long as a bull in a china closet is aware of himself and his surroundings everything is fine. It’s when the bull forgets where he is or forgets his purpose that all hell breaks loose.

I have also been described as being a type-a, or driven, individual. This means I drive hard towards my goal. Sometimes, that looks like I’m being an asshole. Often, I think, I am just being aggressive. Maybe a little more aggressive than you, my complainant, would like, but I’m doing my thing. You should do yours and quit making judgements about others, myself included.

But does type-a mean that we have to be oblivious to our fellow travellers along the road? No. Often, the type-a male will be very bullish and not very self-aware. I am hopeful that I have broken this stereotype, somewhat. I still drive too fast. But I will never tailgate you or cut you off in traffic. I find, often, that it’s the good drivers who are the most cooperative and friendly. It’s the survivalists who are struggling to maintain their own sanity, or get to work on time (my god, I’m 10 minutes late already), who are challenged by the cooperative rules of the road.

Here in my popular town, Austin, Texas, we like to complain about our traffic woes. The problem is, we did it to ourselves. Back in the 70’s there was some federal money available to build infrastructure in Austin. We, us hippies, decided to keep Austin weird, and less trafficked. So we turned down the money and went skinny dipping in Lake Travis at Hippy Hollow. The problem is, the infrastructure we didn’t build in the 70’s is still the infrastructure we have in Austin today. It’s part of the reason some of us are lobbying against Amazon building their next HQ here. We don’t need the traffic, the discourteous drivers, or the entitled millennials who are coming to work for the tech giant. They’re already here, filling up our high-rise, downtown condos.

So can I, as an evolved bull, still maintain my type-a drive AND be courteous?

It is not my natural state, I will admit. But I can be more friendly on the road. I can maintain a meta-awareness of myself in this hyper-driven state. And I can be conscious of my positive or negative impact on others.

Here’s an example from a not to distant confrontation with a you’re-an-asshole” fellow traveller who did not appreciate my driven style nor my choice in German autos.

This guy, we’ll call him Billy, was irritated from the moment we met. He had an easily identifiable conservative bent, and probably voted for our current president. And as much as I’d like to write the guy off during our initial “hello” encounter I did not. I believe he did not give me and my lifestyle/attitude any leeway.

As our conversations progressed over the course of several days it became increasingly clear that he was about to deliver his judgement of me. It came over drinks before dinner.

“Yeah,” I said, in response to one of our conversations about speeding. “It’s sort of a cat and mouse game?”

“What do you mean,” he asked, sensing his opening.

“Well, if the patrolman is sitting in his car two miles away shooting radar up the highway. And I’m driving 85 in a 65 mph speed zone and my radar detector goes off… Well, then I slow down. Mission accomplished.”

“If you’re going 85 in a 65, you’re an asshole.”

Did we need to discuss this any further?

“Um, okay,” I said. “I hope we can agree to disagree and still maintain our friendship.”

The conversation did not progress from there. Oh well.

It is true I was assessing our similarities from the moment we met. I think that’s what we, as humans, do. We try and identify “friends” and foes.” And as I was aware this alpha male might be in the contrarian mode, he was certainly non-threatening. So I was comfortable assuming the friendly-until-proven-otherwise stance between us. Non-defensive, non-judgemental, just different. He was okay in his world, I was okay in mine.

I don’t think he saw things the same way. Perhaps he was a bull who had lost track of himself. Perhaps he was unaware of his surroundings. Or perhaps he just figured at 50+ years old, he didn’t need to tolerate any self-assuming liberals. Either way, I think he was more uncomfortable than I was. And the rest of our time together was somewhat subdued.

But being the bull that I am, I could not quite let it go.

“So, I’m just curious,” I asked him, as they were packing the car to leave. “Why do you think they design cars, all cars, to go over 100 miles per hour?”

He didn’t answer.

“I think it has something to do with freewill. But I’m not sure.”

We left it at that.

Am I the bull in the china closet today, just because I’m feeling good and driving a bit harder towards my goal? I don’t think so. Am I aware enough to recognize others with differing viewpoints and steer clear of any confrontational topics? Yes, that’s what I aspire to do.

I’d say I was a type-a male just as this guy was. I’d just imagine myself more evolved in my ability to navigate and negotiate my surroundings and fellow travellers. I don’t have to be friends with everybody. But, I sure do want to give each and every one of you the benefit of the doubt and the right to your own opinions and agendas.

Does type-a always mean asshole?

You tell me.

John McElhenney – let’s connect online
@jmacofearth & Google+ & Facebook & LinkedIn

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