Why were the Romans at the time of Hannibal like a bunch of drunk Texas cowboys?

cowboy riding an elephant

Does the phrase ‘one tough nurse’ bring an image to mind? Maybe Nurse Jackie on television, played by Edie Falco, formerly of The Sopranos. She was an emergency room nurse with a high wire juggling act that included her own indiscretions and addictions. For some of you, perhaps Nurse Ratched comes to mind, from the movie, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Talk about cold and heartless, the actress Louise Fletcher earned a well-deserved academy award for her performance and Nurse Ratched has been voted as the 2nd greatest villainess of all time, just behind the Wicked Witch of the West.


Nurse Ratched

This won’t hurt a bit!

Maybe of few of you reading this have a more personal experience from a nurse with such a poor bedside manner that Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela would have punched in the nose, whose favorite lie was, ‘this won’t hurt a bit’.

When I think of a tough nurse, ‘Derrick’ comes to mind. We met and shared a few hours’ drive in Ohio some years back. I was on my way to a collection training program and he was on his way to visit a sister who was ill and hospitalized. That led to a talk about his profession as an operating room nurse, as well as a few war stories from each of us.

Naturally enough, we talked about the image that many people may have of nurses: women for the most part and if not a female, at least effeminate. Derrick was neither. In fact, he had been a successful boxer back in the service, where he learned nursing and earned his degree and for a short time, carried a chip on his shoulder, related perhaps to his profession. He told me about the time he walked into a bar in Texas and shouted out from the door way, ‘I can take anybody in here!’

Now I don’t know if you have any experience of drinking establishments in Texas and it doesn’t matter what type, from a sawdust on the floor ‘hole in the wall’ in Laredo or The Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa in Dallas, if your objective is to pick a fight in Texas, any bar will do and your odds of success are excellent.

Derrick says he almost had to stand out of the way from the rush to the door. Once outside, he squared off with the biggest and most enthusiastic of the men and promptly knocked him out. The Texan recovered quickly and asked his friends, ‘Did he knock me out?’ When told that was indeed the case, he said to Derrick, ‘Come on back in, I’m gonna’ buy you a drink.’

But the other men made no move to go back inside. Instead, to a man they said, ‘Me next!’ Derrick replied, ‘I said I could take anybody in the bar, I didn’t say everybody.’

Many people believe Hannibal to be one of the finest commanding officers in history, taking a huge army from North Africa, thru Spain and over the Alps into Northern Italy where he began to fight the most powerful nation the world had ever seen. He took some war elephants with him too, and if you’ve ever taken a dog out for a walk on the ice you might have a slight appreciation of how difficult that could be.

After knocking on the northern Roman door and in effect saying, ‘We can take anybody in this country,’ he knocked out their army.

Nobody offered to buy him a drink, share a goblet or two of wine. The Romans were like a bunch of drunk Texas cowboys, ‘me next’ sending army after army. They could survive losing a battle, they proved that often enough, but not Hannibal, one loss and he would be out for much more than the count.

Some people in negotiations will tell us winning isn’t everything and others say it is the only thing. Win/win is attractive, but let’s not be naive, we want to win. Yet, an important question we ignore at our peril in effective negotiations is to ask, ‘what next’? It is a recommended consideration if you lose a battle, over a raise, vacation schedule, buying a new car, what movie the family will see, where to take a vacation, but should also be considered ‘what next’ if you win. Can you afford to lose, what if you win now, but lose later?

It is mildly disconcerting at best, to be battle scared, out of breath, tired, reaching what we thought was the winner’s circle only to see a long line of ‘me next’.

Pithy Quote:

“I will either find a way or make one.”
…A Latin quote, often attributed to Hannibal who was told he could not make it over the Alps with his elephants.

Tim Paulsen is the author of “Sex, Lies & Negotiation Techniques”. Click here for details.