Photograph ©  Jose Losada / Unsplash

Ronnie 2.0

The Bubbe Meise and Other Stories

Pretty much everyone I knew told me it was time to upgrade my operating system. I ignored them. The default system I was born with had served me very well all of these years. I wasn’t about to change because of a bunch of disgruntled, complaining naysayers. Then Rachie, my niece, pulled me aside and told me it was time. Nothing pains her more than hurting another human being, so I knew if she was telling me, it had to be true.

So I called the 1-800 number that night. I didn’t have to look it up because I passed their giant billboard on the highway every night when I drove home from work.

The recorded message said due to a heavy call volume, the wait time might be 10 to 15 minutes. I almost hung up, but that is exactly what my old operating system would have done, so I held on. My patience was rewarded because the hold music was one of my all-time favorite songs—Dancing in the Moonlight. So I was pretty pissed off when Keith answered after two minutes.

“This is Keith. How can I help you?”

“The message said 10 to 15 minutes. I didn't even get to hear the end of the song.”

“We aim to please, sir.”

“Dancing in the Moonlight?” I said. “The original by King Harvest. Not that shit cover by Toploader.”

“Very good, sir. How can I help you today?”

“I would like to upgrade my operating system. I have been getting complaints.”

“Very good, sir. Well, you have come to the right place. Can you tell me what you are looking for in an operating system upgrade?”

I thought about it for a while.

“Well, Keith, apparently I don’t RSVP. I get invited to parties and events and just throw the invitation in the garbage.”

“Ah, yes,” said Keith.

“And the word is I have a tendency to talk about myself and not ask other people about their lives.”

“Ah, yes,” said Keith.

“And I think I heard something about thank you notes. I’m not even sure what that means.”

“Ah, yes,” said Keith.

“And of course the insults. It would be nice to maybe cut down a little on the insults.”

“If I may,” said Keith, “might I recommend a jump to Ronnie 2.0? I believe it has all the features you need. It is a very robust operating system. And, for a limited time, it comes with our new state-of-the-art filtering system at no additional charge.”

“Filtering system?”

“Yes. Perfect for your, ahem, insulting situation. It filters your thoughts before they get to your mouth. Very effective.”

It sounded perfect. Ronnie 2.0.

“Do you take Visa?” I asked.

“Of course, sir.”

“Well, Keith. Wrap her up.”

On Wednesday the Pratzers invited me for Saturday lunch. I told them thank you, I would be delighted to come.

Elan said I could confirm on Friday afternoon. Just to let him know. Malka was making her Alleppo chicken.

I said I was confirming now. I would be there with bells on.

Elan said, “Okay. But please don’t cancel.”

I said I would not dream of it.

On Friday, I arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to the Pratzer house. Then I went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Elan’s favorite scotch.

On Saturday, I arrived right on time. I was wearing a collared shirt and khakis. I was wearing shoes. I had brought my own head covering.

Malka thanked me for the flowers.

I shouldn’t have.

I smiled. It was my pleasure.

Ronnie 2.0.

The Pratzers had invited another couple—Rose and Simon Rosenthal. They arrived a little late for my liking, but Malka had some very good snacks and Elan and I had a glass of scotch while we waited. The Rosenthals had just come back from a cruise in Croatia, and Simon was telling an excruciatingly long and boring story which I think had something to do with the buffet table.

“Tell me more about Dubrovnik,” I said.

One of their kids was getting married. There was much talk about the arrangements. The hall, the food, the band.

Much much talk.

“What did you decide for centerpieces?” I asked.

After dinner, I helped clear the plates. I had never seen the Pratzers’ kitchen before.

“Let me help you with that,” I told Malka.

She asked if I were drunk.

I did not mention Ronnie 2.0.

Malka made her world-famous brownies. They were delish.

Malka told Rose she looked great. Was she still doing Pilates?

“Yes,” said Rose. “But I really need to lose 10 pounds before the wedding.”

I said, “Then maybe you should limit yourself to only one helping of brownies.”

I called the 1-800 number from the car. Sly and the Family Stone. Their wait music was phenomenal. It could be a Spotify playlist.

Georgia answered after eight minutes.

“Georgia here, how can I help you?”

“Georgia,” I said, “any chance I can speak to Keith?”

“I’m afraid not, sir. But I’m sure I can help you. What’s your account number?”

I gave Georgia my account number.

“Is it okay if I put you on hold?”

I said it would be my pleasure.

A live version of Springsteen’s Lost in the Flood. Was heartbroken when Georgia returned.

“I have it right here, sir. I see you recently upgraded your operating system to Ronnie 2.0. Are you happy with the upgrade?”

“Georgia, I am very happy with the upgrade. I am having a little more coffee with people who I genuinely despise, but all in all it has been very satisfactory.”

“Well I am very happy to hear that, sir. What then seems to be the problem?”

“I just told a woman that if she wanted to lose weight, maybe she should eat a little less cake.”

“Oh, dear.”


“Well, you should maybe consider adding—oh, oh, I see here you did get our filter upgrade for free.”

“I did, Georgia. It appears to be defective.”

“Oh dear, yes. I am going to speak to my manager. Is it okay if I put you on hold for a second?”

“Indeed,” I said.

BB King. The Thrill is Gone. Live from the Cook County Jail. God bless Georgia. I got to listen to the entire song.


“Yes, Georgia.”

“Well, I had a chat with my manager, and we think you may have received a refurbished filter upgrade. I’ll be honest with you. They have a tendency to be a little buggy.”

“Tendency to be a little buggy?”

“Yes. You aren't the first to complain. It goes along perfectly fine for a while and then the filter gets disabled. Which then disables the default filter too, so you are left with no filter at all. It’s the damnest thing. But I am going to send you a brand new version. No charge.”

I said fine.

Georgia said the only thing is I would have to reinstall the entire operating system again. I said no problem.

I called Malka and asked her for the Rosenthals’ address. She said I should leave the Rosenthals alone. Rose was very upset. I said I was determined to make it right. She said no. I said please.

Turns out the Rosenthals lived around the corner from me.

I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought Rose a $300 mega-basket of soaps and oils. Then I went to the liquor store and bought Simon four bottles of Barolo, which were so expensive I had never bought them for myself. Then I went to the Judaica store and bought the newlyweds-to-be a sterling silver menorah as an engagement present.

Arms ladened with gifts, I rang the Rosenthal doorbell with my forehead. Rose was not happy to see me.

“Rose,” I said, “I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am. My words were inexcusable, but I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I made a completely inappropriate insensitive joke and I am so, so sorry.”

I did not mention the refurbished filter software.

“An engagement present for the kids,” I said, as I thrusted the sterling silver menorah into her arms.

“Well, that is really considerate of you,” she said. “Shira adores sterling silver.” Shira was her daughter.

“And this basket is for you.”

Then Simon showed up in the doorway and relieved me of my king’s ransom of Barolo. He invited me in for a scotch.

“I was just putting together this IKEA bookshelf,” he said.

So I spent the next two hours with Simon Rosenthal building an IKEA bookshelf and listening to him talk about his birdwatching escapades.

“Which is your favorite owl?” I asked.

Rose and Shira Rosenthal spent the entire two hours fighting about the menu. Apparently, Shira Rosenthal would rather die than serve fish at her wedding. She repeated the line, “Fuck them if they don't eat steak,” about six times.

“She’s quite the firecracker,” said Simon Rosenthal about his daughter.

“I love her passion for meat,” I said.

Then I spent an hour looking at bridesmaid dress pictures.

“You can never go wrong with periwinkle blue,” I said.

When Shira’s fiancé, Benjamin, arrived, she complained that he was late and clearly had no interest in any of the wedding preparations. She pointed at me and said, “He has done more than you and he isn't even invited!” Then she browbeat him to thank me for the sterling silver menorah I had brought them as an engagement present.

Ben shook my hand, and said thank you.

I said it was my pleasure.

Then I said, “Why would you want to spend the rest of your life with that bitch?”

I didn’t waste my time with a customer service person this time. I asked to speak to the manager.

Her name was Marjorie.

“Here’s what I think happened,” said Marjorie after I gave her my account number. “I have seen this happen before.”

“Marjorie,” I said gently, “your filter is a piece of shit. Excuse my French.”

“I understand your frustration,” said Marjorie. “But I’m pretty sure we’ll have a good laugh about it after.”

I didn’t think we would.

Neither the Rosenthals nor Pratzers were now talking to me.

“You see, what I think happened is that when you downloaded the new operating system, the one with the brand new filter, you actually first forgot to delete the old version. The one with the refurbished filter. So the old operating system remained as the default system. Did you forget to delete the old operating system?”

“Marjorie,” I said. “Nobody told me to first delete the old operating system.”

“It is a common mistake. Happens all the time. Here’s what I’m going to do for you. I think you will really be happy.”

I didn’t think I would, but there was not much I could do. I told Marjorie that I was listening.

“I am going to have to get the okay from the general manager for this, but I am going to tell him it is a special circumstance, and I am going to, honestly this never happens, I am going to upgrade you to Ronnie 3.0. With, of course, a brand new top-of-the-line filter. What do you think of that?”

I told Marjorie I thought that sounded fine.

Marjorie asked if it was okay if she put me on hold while she asked her general manager.

I said no problem.

Marjorie must have had a lengthy discussion with her general manager, because I listened to Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks in its entirety while I waited.

Great album.

The general manager approved of Ronnie 3.0. Marjorie said, “Don’t forget to delete the old version.”

Ronnie 3.0 was a gamechanger.

The Rosenthals issued a restraining order. Five hundred feet. But that did not stop me from buying Ben and Shira a 2020 Audi SQ5 as a wedding present. And I bought Rose and Simon and Elan and Malka a two-week Caribbean cruise.

My niece Rachie called and she wanted her old Uncle Ronnie back. She begged me to return to Ronnie 1.0.

I said that Ronnie 1.0 was an insensitive, rude curmudgeon.

She said she missed him. She wanted him back.

I said, “Ronnie 1.0 had the original filter. One never knew what I might say.”

She said she missed him. She wanted him back.

I said, “Ronnie 1.0 never committed to anything. Always waited to see if something better came along.”

She said she missed him. She wanted him back.

I said, “Okay. Love you.” I would call the 1-800 number.

She said, “Love you.”

I called the 1-800 number.

They put me on hold.

Funeral for a Friend by Elton John.

Love that song.

My call waiting went off about halfway through the song.

It was Rachie.

“Hey, Uncle Ronnie,” said Rachie.

I said, “Hey, Rachie.”

And she said, “Maybe see if they have Ronnie 1.5.”

I said, “Okay.”

The end.