Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I spilled water on my laptop. Here's what happened

This is a story about what happened when I knocked a whole glass of water on my laptop keyboard.What happened when I spilled water on my laptop

It was a Saturday and I was trying to catch up on work. I had just wrapped up a draft of something and sent it off for review, and I was getting ready to launch a new file. I don’t know exactly how the spill occurred – it happened so fast. I imagine I was writing something in my notebook that I keep to the right of my laptop. I had just refilled my water glass and was settling in for my next project.

My right hand bumped my glass and no less than 20 oz. of water flowed over my keyboard. There was just so much water it was in between the keys and puddled around the machine (and papers) on my desk. I froze momentarily.

Then I grabbed some paper towels and began carefully blotting in between the keys (lest an errant keystroke set something undesirable in motion) and around the base of the computer. I wondered if there was a seal between the keyboard and the guts of the computer. I remembered many years ago when I had spilled something on my laptop, this was what had saved it.


The screen went blank and I was forced to hold the power button down and shut the thing off. I unplugged it, pulled the battery out, yanked out the external hard drive, and tipped the machine sideways to let the water run out – and tried not to panic.

I put the computer in front of a fan and figured that was about the best I could do. I didn’t feel like taking it apart. What I was really concerned about was my data and not just my current projects, but my documents. All the documents. And pictures. But moreso the documents.

Why you should back up your data

I am a data hoarder. I have files that are almost 20 years old nestled somewhere on that computer. But is it really hoarding if they are important files: the beginnings of stories, the bones of an essay, outlines of ideas?

At one time (in the late 90s) I had backed up files to floppy disk. Those files are all lost and gone forever. I probably threw them out when I moved, knowing I hadn’t accessed them in 15 years at that time and also that I likely never would again, since how do you read a floppy disk in this day and age? I had used online backup services in the past but felt the subscription was too costly and switched to the external hard drive a couple of years ago. I’d set up a backup schedule and never really thought much about it.

Until then.

My oldest had bought himself a fancy MacBook at the end of the school year last year, eschewing the very practical refurbished IBM ThinkPad I’d given him a couple of years prior. The old machine was sitting on top of the dog crate (which is typically a repository for school-related items: books, papers, earbuds) in the kitchen, where it had been since sometime in June or early July when he needed to update his resume for his summer volunteer job. I fired it up and logged in to the guest account.

I plugged in my external hard drive and began poking around a bit. I knew my data had to be there somewhere. I hoped I didn’t have to install any software or figure out how to do a restore.

Click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click, click-click – nine double clicks and there I was. In My Documents. Everything appeared exactly as it was on my other machine. Apparently I’d had the foresight to schedule the backup any time a file was updated.

 Thank you, God. I know I said this multiple times.

I figured I’d use the old machine until my new machine either dried out or I could get it looked at. (Click here for expert advice if you've spilled water on your laptop.) I installed things like Dropbox and Skype and updated some of the virus protection software on the new-old machine. In order to do that, I had to take over the main account. I limped along with webmail for a few days before I decided to install my favorite email client. Basically, the old workhorse machine, with its missing “W” on the keyboard, became my new best friend. So what if it’s a little slower than my other machine. The operating system is older, but it works just fine! I am using it now, as I write this story.

My work became organized into archives and “after the spill,” a designator that I tacked on to a few files to differentiate them. And life went on.

The side effect of spilling water on my laptop

The other day, my youngest was trying to look up on my new-old computer and I could tell he was getting impatient with how long it was taking the page to load. Sigh, shrug, eye roll. “Hon, why don’t you go look it up on your Chromebook and send me the link?” He did. It was there waiting for me after I was forced to restart the machine because it choked on how many programs and windows I had open.

However, my initial plan to get the other machine fixed doesn’t seem like such a priority anymore. The hidden benefit of things moving slower is I actually have time to breathe.





I remembered how just breathing can eliminate stress.

Doing things faster isn’t always better. Multi-tasking isn’t necessarily efficient.

When I remember the floppy disk era, it is impossible to forget that dial-up internet sound, and the time it took to connect and for simple pages to load – and everyone was okay with that. We thought it was great!

Technology continues to evolve and get bigger, brighter, quicker, and more. More, more, more! But what is the hurry?

That is what I found myself wondering. Fifteen years ago I read a book called, Where Are We Going So Fast? It’s about finding the sacred in everyday moments. It seems it’s time to crack that book again, slow down, and enjoy life.

And ultimately, that is what happened when I knocked a whole glass of water on my laptop keyboard.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28

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