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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Oh, no! Oh, no! OHHH NOOOOO!!!

Posted on April 24, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Yesterday started out normal enough, but by 11:00 AM it had spiraled into a searingly painful, one-act, tragi-drama starring myself and my HP laptop entitled, L'ordinateur et le café: c'est tragique! (Clearly an event so heart-wrenching it can only be fully expressed en Francais.)

Dana and Lauryn had been out of town in Alabama visiting Dana’s family, and finally returned home Friday night. I greeted them with big hugs and a pre-dinner Manhattan – my current libation of choice – for Dana while I worked on preparing a steak using a new cooking method that I discovered that resulted in the best tasting steak I’ve ever produced and the closest thing to anything I’ve ever had outside of a Ruth’s Chris. (The secret is starting with a great cut of beef, a light rub of sea salt, pepper and Lawry’s Season Salt then a quick sear on each side in a hot pan filled with butter, than broil on 3 minutes per side in the same butter filled pan. Pour butter remnants and drippings over steak, and wash the artery-destroying guilt away with your favorite big red wine of choice!)

After a nice night, we had a good late sleep-in on Saturday morning followed by a nice looong shower while Lauryn watched something on the Kaleidescape. Then we went over what we were going to do for the day. All I had on tap was a 12:35 phone interview with Mike Etchart at Sound + Vision Radio to discuss music listening options in the 21st Century living room. The day was our oyster.

So, while we’re getting ready, I boot up my laptop and turn some music on the Meridian system. After I select something Dana-morning friendly – Michael Buble “Caught in the Act” – I go and brew myself a cup of coffee. I carry it back and pop down on the couch as I’ve done thousands of times before and pull the computer onto my lap and start Web browsing. You'd think after my little run in recently with fake Microsoft virus that I'd be done with computer hijinks for a while, That apparently was just the minor pre-glitch in The Matrix before the actual full-on frontal assault.

Dana says something about wanting to see the new PG-13 cut of The King’s Speech and where is it playing or something and I reach to type in “King’s Speech PG-13” into Google and...spill the entire contents of my coffee cup all over my stomach, lap and laptop! It is one of those slow scalds that is so hot that at first you can’t even tell that it’s hot. Then your brain is overwhelmed with nerve stimulii and momentarily reports that it is really cold. Then it just becomes what it is; scorching, near-boiling liquid that is suddenly ALL over you, your computer and your precious lap-bits.

“Ohhhh…..No! NOOOOO!!!”

Dana comes running over. “What’s wrong? Oh! What happened?!”

I pull the computer off my lap and flip it upside down on top of the ottoman thingy, watching coffee drain out of the keyboard as the monitor gives up the fine fight and goes black. “Ohhhh! Oh, Nooo!” Somewhere in the distance I hear Dana saying (are you ok? do you need ice? what can i do? what can i do?!) while I’m just saying “Oh, no! The laptop! THE LAPTOP!”

I get up, my shirt and shorts covered in coffee. I take my shirt off and I have this large, angry red blob rapidly spreading across my stomach and down my left side. I unplug the computer and pull the battery. I get a paper towel and wipe it down as best as I can, shaking out any coffee droplets. Dana asks if I want to try putting it in a giant bag of rice, and while I do have faith in that trick, I remember that when I bought the computer at Costco I sprang for the 3-year extended warranty. While this wasn't the contingency I had in mind when I purchased the warranty, it now felt like a pair of pocket aces.

As I go hunting around for the warranty paperwork and receipt, I can’t help but replay the event over-and-over in my mind. And no matter how many times I do, I’ll be darned if I can find a way to blame it on anyone! Lauryn jumping on me would have been an obvious target, except she was in the other room watching a show on the Kaleidescape. Can I blame Kaleidescape for NOT being able to blame Lauryn? If I’d brought the iPad home from work, I wouldn’t have needed the laptop to control the Meridian system. Do I blame Apple for the iPad2 shortage or Meridian for the headless control of their new system? Dana asked me about that stupid King’s Speech. Can I blame Colin Firth for bewitching Dana as Mr. Darcy? Can I blame the Weinstein Brothers for deciding to re-release the stupid movie in a Dana-friendly rating? Can I blame Dana’s friend, Vicky, for telling Dana that it was out now and that she already saw it and that Dana IS missing out? Yes. Yes I can. I can easily blame all of these people. And, yet, sadly I can’t blame any of them. I don’t know what happened. Did I try and balance the coffee cup on my chest while I clicked on something? Was I holding the rim of the cup in my teeth? I don’t even know. One minute, I’m surfing, the next minute I’m scalding. I wish there was a You Tube video I could consult...

So, I find the warranty and call the service center and after some rudimentary troubleshooting – “What’s wrong?” “The computer won’t power on.” “It was working?” “Yes. It was working fine.” “Then it just stopped?” “Yes. Then it just stopped.” The side light where the power pack plugs in lights up and the WiFi light lights orange which means “Not on” but that’s the extent of the proof of life. I felt that mentioning the sudden coffee bath would just complicate my man’s focus and cloud his sense of helping me judgement. -- they offer to send me a box to return the computer to them for inspection. Most typical repair turn arounds take 7.5 days. Oh, and back up any important data you want to keep before sending it in!

So I start looking through the warranty and its limitations and exclusions and notice the bold line that says how “introducing foreign objects” is not under the list of covered breakages. I fear that a cup of coffee may, under certain heightened insurance denial circumstances, be considered foreign. Plus, I don’t really want to wait 7.5 days. This is my laptop we’re talking about here, kind of like saying, “Pick which body part you want to do without for 8 days or so, Spleen? Hypothalamus? Ten foot section of the intestine? You pick...”

I let my fingers do the walking in the phone book and find a computer repair place that offers round-the-clock phone answering that also happens to be located very near my home. I call the guy and ask him, “Hypothetically, if a cup of coffee got spilled on my laptop, could you clean it up and either A) get it back to working or B) get it to where it doesn’t look like a cup of coffee was spilled on it?”

“Hypothetically? Hypothetically I'd say you should just go down to Wal-Mart and buy a new one.”

“OK. I spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop. Now it won’t power on.”

He says that for $50 he’ll give it a thorough clean out, spray it down with some solution that draws moisture out of it and see if he can’t bring my girl back. He also says that time is of the essence, and, similar to some kind of gnarly battlefield injury, my highest percentage of success is to get it to him within the hour of the incident. Tick-tock, we’ve got to get this patient into OR and on the table stat! I check my watch and see that I have just enough time to drive to get re-dressed, drive to this guy, and make it back home for my phone chitty-chat with Mike.

I won’t know if it’s a success until some time Monday, but if the guy can at least give it a thorough coffee enema cleanse, then I’ll figure it $50 well spent. He assures me that when he’s done no one will be able to tell about the brown shower. He also said that a scan of my drive detected that all of my data was secure, so that’s a giant bonus. Though, on the questionable side, he said that scanning my drive detected 133 viruses or other infections.  And then he described Windows Security Essentials as SpyWare -- "Umm, I downloaded it directly from Microsoft." "Yeah. There's a lot of sites out there that try and trick you into downloading fake spyware." "I don't think that is one of them though." -- and he suggested that I pay him for a thorough cleanse and for some anti-spyware protection.

I tell him that we'll just worry about the part where he gets my computer up and running again first, and then I'll be more focused to worry about the rest. I can only handle one crisis at a time...


I called the guy this morning and he says that when he came in to work, my computer powered on AND my desktop comes up. Which, I'm taking to mean in non-computer-guy terms that it is back up and working! Huzzah! Then he says that it looks like the screen has been stained, that there is like this coffee smudge or something on it. Do I want him to fix/clean that too? Uh, yeah. When you said, "When I'm done with it you won't be able to tell anything ever happened to it" I pretty much took that to mean the screen as well. You konw, the part that I actually look at...

Categories: April 2011, Coffee, Computers