Overreaction Nation | Reader's Digest

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.

By Lenore Skenazy from Reader's Digest Magazine | June 2012

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.

  • Your Comments

    • Jmut46

      So sad…I really feel the media is to blame for most of this.  If it didn’t get headlines, it wouldn’t be so dramatic.   But of course  you have your money grabbing ambulance chasers who will do anything for a buck and the “poor distressed: people who need money to make them feel better after their” tramatic” experience. So, so sad what this country is becoming.

    • Mom_4_4

      I couldn’t agree more. I am a beef producer and fully aware the ‘pink slime’ media lies are just that lies. Now due to these lies thousands of people are out of a job.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NO6LZR3AAVOGHC7DQ57ZQOOUSA Patricia C

      What do fish do in the water swim, and what else? Freak out and overreact is right.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OVI2D6LKLJ4WNNFEX77NALB47Y G

      “Young man caught relieving himself in a reservoir in Portland, Oregon.”  Whoever gave the drain order needs to be relieved for lack of “something” upstair.  Is this a joke?  Recent survey says 1 in 5 adults relieve themselves in the public swimming pool, including George Stephanopoulos’ better half, Ali Wentworth, who said on air that she wouldn’t get out to just do that.

    • Bmarrs

      We are a society that does not teach the person, with an allergy, must take responsibility for their own safety. 
      Example; I work in a school where there is a teacher who is highly allergic to strawberries.  Because the day we served strawberries she eats her lunch in the teachers lounge.  Knowing that the other teachers are going to bring their lunch, with strawberries,  into the lounge.  She has an immediate reaction.  Instead of going somewhere else this one day, she is in the lounge.  Now strawberries are not allowed in the school building.
      Where is her responsibility to know that for one day she eats her lunch else where.  Now everyone in the school is being punished and not allowed to have strawberries for lunch.
      Instead of learning how to live with and adjust our actions we eliminate strawberries for one person.   

    • Tiffany

      What a shame that the real point gets lost because the writer can’t be bothered to do any research or present things in a rational way.  The U.S. IS full of overreactions…enough so that honest reporting would provide plenty of fodder without playing into common misconceptions like the idea that a child with severe peanut allergies needs to eat a peanut in order to be fatally affected.  

    • Tiffany

      What a shame that the real point gets lost because the writer can’t be bothered to do any research or present things in a rational way.  The U.S. IS full of overreactions…enough so that honest reporting would provide plenty of fodder without playing into common misconceptions like the idea that a child with severe peanut allergies needs to eat a peanut in order to be fatally affected.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1565762781 Catherine Lavallee

      Lenore is my idol!  I love this lady!  She brings common sense to a hyped up world.  

    • Anonymous

      Nobody in America is making more sense than Lenore Skenazy.

    • Anonymous

      Nobody in America is making more sense than Lenore Skenazy.