In the midst of his Type A counseling, John Vaccarello followed Dr. Meyer Friedman's instructions one day and stepped deliberately into the longest line at the bank.
There was a very bad moment, he remembers. The teller was not doing her job right, the line didn't move, and Vaccarello began to chafe. "She couldn't add two and two up," he says. "Why couldn't she do that faster?" But he was just over 50, and he had already suffered two heart attacks, and he decided that if he was ever going to learn patience in the face of frustration, he might as well stick around and try.
"It doesn't bother me anymore," he says. "I'm more a recovering Type A. It's like a recovering alcoholic -- you do slip." Vaccarello entered Friedman's project because his wife brought him the literature as he was recovering from his second heart attack, and so much seemed familiar that he decided to join in.
"You begin to see some of your own behavior showing up in other people," he says. "My biggest problem was time urgency -- very impatient. Couldn't wait for a person to finish a sentence, for example. If they were talking too slow, I'd finish the sentence for them. I had it down to an art that I could hear somebody talking, and look at them, and not pay any attention to what they were saying."
He says he doesn't do that much these days. He listens, eats more slowly, tries not to race through yellow lights. He says he takes vacations now the way you're supposed to -- enjoying himself instead of worrying about whether things will go right and then worrying about work left behind. He has refused to be considered for two promotions since he left the group. Both would have required moving away from San Francisco, and Vaccarello, who works as a regional superintendent for the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., says neither opportunity seemed worth the transfer.
In the old days that would have been unthinkable, he says. "People say if you've lost your drive you're not going to move up the corporate ladder. Well, that's baloney," he says. "It's not that I feel like I've lost my competitiveness, but I'm a little choosier now."