Overreaction Nation

We combed the headlines and found these funny stories that prove once and for all that nothing is too small or too insignificant for Americans to get worked up about.

Overreaction NationIllustration by John Cuneo
The Overreaction: Snack Stirs Panic

A bus full of ten-year-olds is evacuated in Massachusetts. Is there a terrorist on board? A fire? A wolf?

Try: a peanut. It seems to be a single legume, unarmed, on the floor, but you can’t be too careful, can you? What if there’s a child on the bus who’s allergic? What if he hurls himself toward the nut and eats it quicker than an elephant coming off a juice fast? There’s only one way to make absolutely sure that tragedy never happens (besides the driver picking up the nut and throwing it away): mass evacuation.

Overreact much? Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost the age-old ability to distinguish between getting our feet wet in a puddle and the Poseidon Adventure.

The Overreaction: Booze Blunders Prompt National Overhaul for Restaurant Chain

Remember last year when an Applebee’s in Michigan accidentally served an alcoholic drink to a toddler?

Of course you do—and that’s the problem. How did a single waitstaff mishap become national news? I wish that every time I got a side of fries when I asked for a baked potato, NBC News sent a camera crew. Obviously, booze and kids do not mix. But this incident made national headlines because it involved something all too easy to overreact to: a child in danger.

The mom said she noticed something was wrong only when the little guy started saying “Hi” and “Bye” to the walls. But then reporters discovered that this was not the first such incident at an Applebee’s: It had happened two other times since 2005.

“Get a grip. We’re talking three mistakes out of millions of mid-price meals,” announced Applebee’s—not. Instead, corporate crisis control spasmed with apology, promising to retrain the entire staff and switch to single-serve juice boxes immediately, as if the company had been secretly spiking kiddie drinks for decades.

As for the parents, did they demand a free dinner? Please. They played their own all-American part by initially suing for $25,000 of “emotional distress and medical expenses.” But you know who’s real­ly getting emotionally distressed? Us! All this knee-jerk overreaction is turning us into idiots, going nuts on cue over the pettiest of problems and demanding apologies, precautions, and laws that are unnecessary at best and Kafka-with-mad-cow-disease-esque at worst.

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