Life is full of unpleasant events and lousy surprises, and many of them are beyond remedy. Most people learn that, often, you just have to suck it up and move on. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to undo unfair setbacks, and you may not undo them anyway.
But not everybody has learned the lesson. Some apparently think the world should be arranged to avoid doing them any injustice, big or small. Not only do they think it, they insist on it. And about all they usually accomplish is to impress the rest of us with their overbearing self-absorption.
A couple of weeks ago, Frederick A. Douglass High School in Oklahoma City played a state quarterfinal playoff game against Locust Grove. With 1:04 left in the game, a Douglass receiver caught a pass and scampered for what looked to be a go-ahead touchdown. But a Douglass coach running down the sideline got in the way of a referee, and the ref threw a flag. The play was called back, and Locust Grove hung on for a 20-19 victory.
The only problem was that the ref made a mistake. Instead of nullifying the touchdown, he should have assessed a 5-yard penalty on the next play. The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association acknowledged the error and apologized, but it said its rules didn't allow for a protest. So the regrettable matter was closed.
But the people in charge of the Oklahoma City public schools decided the outcome was a historic tragedy that demanded redress. They filed a lawsuit insisting on a do-over of the last 64 seconds, or of the entire game, court's choice. A judge granted a temporary restraining order barring Locust Grove from playing its next game.
In the end, though, the judge came to his senses and rejected the request. If he ordered a replay, District Judge Bernard M. Jones II wrote, he might "usher in a new era of robed referees and meritless litigation due to disagreement with or disdain for decisions of gaming officials." What he could have said was: Grow up, people. Nobody died. It's a game, for Pete's sake.
But if there were a prize for Most Overwrought Complaint About a Petty Offense, the Oklahoma City school officials might have come in second.
They would have their hands full competing with Benjamin Edelman, a professor at Harvard Business School who, after getting a takeout order from a Chinese restaurant, was horrified to discover that he had been overcharged by $4 on his four items.
Most customers would have contacted the establishment and asked for a $4 refund. But not our professor.
He promptly fired off an email to the owner demanding an explanation, rejected the one he received (the website prices had not been updated) and demanded a refund of no less than $12, under "the approach provided under the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, wherein consumers broadly receive triple damages for certain intentional violations." Even after the restaurant agreed to give him $12, Edelman held out the threat of legal action.
Manager Ran Duan, who came here from China at age 3, was clearly eager to appease the unhappy customer. "I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business," he told Boston.com. "It just broke my heart."
But after seeing himself torched on social media, Edelman realized he was making himself look like an overeducated jerk and changed his tune. He issued an apology, admitting, "I was very much out of line."
For that, he deserves commendation. Too bad the Oklahoma City school officials were not equally quick to recognize the folly of turning molehills into mountains. All concerned would do well to heed the modern adage: "Don't sweat the small stuff -- and it's all small stuff."