Saturday, May 29, 2021


Roger Loring doesn’t give a big cahoot if the menu’s changed, so long as it doesn’t take half a day to reach a live human voice.

He’s back, badass as ever! So badass Loring is that I’m going to repeat his latest book’s title so I can hyperlink it to his Amazon book page so he doesn’t come after me with his nine-iron for leaving out an important marketing tool. Here, then, with no further ado: LISTEN CAREFULLY as OUR MENU has RECENTLY CHANGED. There! If that won’t mitigate the retired high school teacher’s potential rage should he detect so much as an imagined nuance of inattention to details in this review, I’ll trade my keyboard for a mega-screen TV and cede the word-slinging game to the pros. I might even start calling him “Rog,” buy a growler of my neighborhood brew pub’s seasonal beer, and invite Loring to watch October’s mad basketball playoffs. Oh, the hell I would. I’d pass on hoops, maybe catch a few Packer games—unless, o lort. he’s a Vikings fan, and I’d just as soon not even know that, at least until this review is posted.

Having embedded a pretty big clue above identifying perhaps Loring’s all-time favorite sport, I await breathlessly for the questions to arrive. Not giving a hint in this paragraph, as I wish to mildly rebuke readers who’ve been merely skimming up to now without seriously noticing the review’s clever wordsmithery, and also to encourage those who might have overlooked the hyperlinked title of the book under discussion (I’ve italicized the word hyperlink as a courtesy to the many of my Luddite cohorts possibly baffled by this unfamiliar word among the many they may find in the baffling new digital society Roger Loring’s latest book—title hyperlinked above—lampoons for baffling so many of us in certain age groups who’ve yet to discover the welcome face of His Amazing Highness Mayor Google presiding over there next to the bar).

Taking a giant leap of faith, I’m assuming no one who’s read this far has any doubt about the meaning of the book’s title, even those trusting souls who listen patiently to the endless recorded messages requiring of them to push this or that button on their phones, always with the hope each button will deliver them to the coveted live human voice, but only to find in many if not most cases they’ve been routed to the exit door and a replay of the endless mechanical loop starting the whole process over again. Here’s Loring’s frank opinion of what are called Automated Phone Systems (APS): “I feel that the now widely accepted model for business customer service—and I don’t want to be too harsh here—is annoying, stupid, intolerable, heartless, self-serving, impractical, and, in case you missed it, annoying. And to make sure you get it I’ll say it one more time. Automated answering systems are annoying.”

And he’s not just whining. He fights back, gives these Scroogey corporations a dose of their own inhuman parsimoniousness. If you’re calling Loring from a heartless, penny-pinching, indifferent, etc. corporate office, here’s what you can expect to get:

You have reached the Loring residence. This call would be monitored for quality assurance if Roger cared about quality. He doesn’t. If you would like to hear this message in English, press 1. To hear this message in Spanish, press 2. To hear this message in Chinese, Russian, or Pig Latin— what are you thinking? To hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rap version of this message, press 3.”

This being the title story is also the first in the book, leading the first of three sections organized by general topic. The first section is titled Welcome to My Life. In the interest of encouraging you to buy the book, thus averting a nine-iron furor from its author, I shall give you mere tidbits as enticement, such as this quote from the story Clearing the Clutter: “The only two items that thrift shops refuse to accept nowadays are encyclopedias and leisure suits.” Taking a snarky swipe at a younger generation, Loring opines, “Young people today pretty much judge the value of something by whether it fits into a USB plug or can be downloaded.” Personally I think that’s a tad harsh, but I’ll not so much as consider raising a stink over it.

My favorite title in this section, The Long Goodbye, also had me nodding like a bobblehead during descriptions of the difficulties his wife and her family exhibit trying to disengage from a long phone conversation or a visit in person to the Loring household. Because of gender implications with this topic, I shall tiptoe quietly away and let you figure out for yourselves what it is all about and whether it should be reported to the Commission Investigating Suspiciously Incorrect Troglodytian Gender Outrages Before They Reach Debate Status on Facebook. Perhaps to balance the political implication of The Long Goodbye, Loring has added Cook, Grill, Whatever. Do You Want a Beer?

This section also includes If I Ever Write a Detective Novel, This Will Be the First Chapter, which I read and was crushed to find at the end, in all capital letters: TO BE CONTINUED. . . (BUT PROBABLY NOT BECAUSE I HAVE TO CALL PEOPLE TO SEE IF THEY WANT AN EXTENDED CAR WARRANTY. THAT’S MY DAY JOB.) 

And leaving fortune cookies in mailboxes, I suspect. . .

The book’s second section deals with the media, the mere word of which upsets me so cruelly I shan’t even give you any of its titles. Except one: An Abundance of Pundits, if only for the rhyme.

The third section is about sports, aptly titled The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat. Its stories include Loring’s personal history as a young athlete and confessions of his attempt to recapture some of that youthful prowess in his more mature years, such as today.

This is the place in my review to revisit the admonition I delivered up top to those who may still be wondering what is Loring’s all-time favorite sport, the answer can be found by closely scrutinizing this story, titled Old Guys Playing Basketball. Once you’ve figured that one out, answered the question you had up top because you merely skimmed the second paragraph of this review, you qualify for the bonus answer to the question of a second sport Loring expounds upon. You can answer it yourself by reading I Can Hit That Shot, which starts out, “There was a time when I seriously considered turning pro. Okay, I just had a dream about turning pro, or maybe it was a hallucination. Whatever it was, the truth is that my **** game was never at a level where I should have considered, dreamed, or hallucinated about being a pro. In fact, I should never have been allowed to buy **** c***s.

So there you have it. If you guess both sports correctly you can proceed to the story titled Trash Talk—something I must point out I have never done, and am still in a low-level state of sub-hysterical shock to see such words in published book.

It just now occurred to me in my low-level state of sub-hysterical shock that I have not yet revealed the titles of Loring’s first two books. This might well be a residual effect of seeing the words “In your face, chump” or “You can’t guard me, chump” on a respectfully printed page. The books? Ah yes. The first one is WHY MEN DON’T ASK for DIRECTIONS, which I am still afraid to read. The second one I’ve not only read but reviewed, and I’m hyperlinking the title (without feeling the need to italicize hyperlink, assuming you all are up to speed on that one) for your convenience. Here then is I DON'T TEXT WHILE DRIVING, WALKING, or STANDING STILL.. One click and you're there!

For links to more short-story collections, click SHORT STORY WEDNESDAY.

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