Sometimes when I'm sitting at my desk working, or driving around town, or doing something mindless like mowing the lawn, I think about things happening that would really suck. Sort of a deja vu kind of thing. I'm willing to bet you do this too. Perhaps you've seen misfortune thrust upon someone and you think: "Wow, glad that didn't happen to me." Well, one of those really sucky, really horrific things (to me) that I hoped would never happen, did.

An entire travel mug of coffee was spilled right onto they keyboard of my Macbook Pro laptop. I mean this was a bull's-eye of bull's-eyes. It wasn't 2-3oz of "oh my God this sucks, but I can clean it up and be okay" spill, this was 12oz of sugary goodness. My keyboard was swimming in coffee. So how did it happen?

The senior staff on my development team at Dealerskins is occupying our main conference for a few months in order to isolate ourselves for some hard-core new product development. Given our super open office environment there can be periods of time with significant interruptions. To combat this we decided to break away from the rest of the office. It was a good decision and has served us well. The downside is five people are in a small room. We're sitting elbow to elbow and desk to desk. So this morning my DBA arrived at the office, poured his morning coffee and sat down (to my left). I had my Macbook Pro sitting on my desk pretty darn close to him. He moves to adjust his travel mug, the rubber bottom catches and it tumbles over. The edge of the mug rested on the edge of my laptop and all the coffee splashed gloriously across the keyboard. Very little missed.

The whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion. I could almost feel myself yelling "nooooooooo" but it was too late. My first instinct, a good one, was to pick up the laptop and turn it upside down so the coffee could drip out and cease it's infiltration of my prized possession. Immediately after getting it upright I unplugged the power cable, stood up, and began shutting down applications. It took a bit of time as I usually have a lot running. Once all apps were shutdown I tapped the power button to bring up the OS shutdown menu and I shut down the whole thing and removed the battery. I was really surprised I had time to do this and I can only think this benefit was a result of turning it upside down quickly. Good job Aaron.

While I had it upside down Cutter and Andy helped me begin the process of wiping it down with wet paper towels. As we did this coffee was running down our arms. It was a tortuous sight. It didn't take long to clean as much as we could see and we repeated this process after it seemed all the coffee was finished dripping. Finally, I borrowed a co-workers hair dryer (thanks Jamie!) and manually air-dried the keyboard (still upside down) for 20 minutes or so. Around lunch time I set up a small room fan to automate the drying process so I could work the rest of the day.

As it stands now, it's still upside down on my desk with the fan blowing on it overnight. I picked it up from the desk before leaving the office and was sickened by the squeaky, crackling sounds of the case which was beginning to show signs of the dried, sticky coffee. Sigh.

Photo 1: Draining the coffee-infiltrated laptop.

Photo 2: Using a hair dryer to apply warm heat and dry my laptop. Shown also, the only good use of a PHP book.

Photo 3: Using a small fan to automate the drying process.

I'm incredibly sick over this whole thing. I told my wife over dinner tonight it was like having one of your children get sick. Real sick. While perhaps an emotional statement that isn't fully true, it brings home the point of how important my laptops - every one of them - have been. My current plan is to hang on to the machine to let it dry out until at least lunch time tomorrow. By then it should be dry enough that I can turn up right side up and take it to Mac Authority. They'll take it apart, assess the damage and clean as much as they can. We'll let it dry some more and then attempt the first boot up. I'm guessing this is all going to take until the first of next week but I'll provide updates as I have them.

In the mean time, get an iSkin, a Griffin elevator, or otherwise move your beverages far far away from your precious electronics. I'd hate to hear of someone else having to deal with this. It's nothing short of awful.

Aaron West's Gravatar
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This entry was posted by Aaron West on January 6, 2009 at 9:08 PM. It was filed in the following categories: Dealerskins, Personal, Mac. It has been viewed 6786 times and has 7 comments.

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7 Responses to What I hoped would never happen... did

  1. Steve Howard

    My wife tipped an entire 20 oz glass of diet Mountain Dew over her Toshiba tablet last week. She panicked, but I grabbed it off her, tipped it upside down etc.

    When we later rebooted it, it began randomly shutting down, and/or rebooting. We could hear the HDD a whir from the HDD each time it shut down.

    After scratching my head a bit I remembered that the tablet has a motion sensor, similar to the iPhone and loads of other machines, and one of it's tasks is to help protect the HDD if it senses the machine being dropped. I wondered if the motion sensor was confuddled after getting a soaking.

    Turns out there's a built-in application to calibrate the motion sensor. Once I ran that, everything was fine.

    <W H E W !>

    Anyway - I hope your MBP turns out to be fit and well!!!

  2. I was in pain after just reading your status on FB.. this... damn man.

    I am sorry to hear that happened (he says as he moves all his drinks and spillables away from the computer)

    keep us posted, mate.

  3. Nice! It looks like you finally found a use for that PHP book. :-P

  4. @Adam - And in the interest of super full disclosure, I had to borrow the book from Andy Matthews. See his name on the bottom?

  5. totally feel your pain! I once killed a titanium powerbook with a glass of water...it was my work machine so you can imagine how delighted my boss was with me.

  6. Scott Dowling

    Any updates on the patient?

  7. @Scott D. - Nothing yet. I wasn't able to take my laptop to Mac Authority yesterday but I'm leaving the office in a bit to head over there. I'll post an update tonight if my Mac Authority visit produces useful info. Otherwise, I'll post back after they've had time to tear down the machine and determine how much damage there is.