Reflections on a laptop/wine disaster

Ah, a glass of cabernet, its jewel tones beckoning me with relaxation and mirth. Can you think of a better way to usher in a weekend than enjoying its dry fruitiness while listening to dueling YouTube music videos with your husband at the kitchen counter? Especially when, that very day, you were told you had not been chosen for a long-sought job with a favorite client, and you found out your daughter had been exposed to swine flu and is already coughing? OK, so I was a little relieved not to get that job, but all the more reason to celebrate a little. Right?

My husband and I were passing the cord to our under-counter speakers back and forth, taking turns teeing up videos to surprise each other. I had just begun playing Muse’s amazing performance of “Uprising” at the MTV VMAs — or was it Linkin Park’s “New Divide”? — when I reached for something to my right, while looking to my left.

Did you know that a fine wineglass full of cabernet will actually bounce when it hits your keyboard? I didn’t, but I do now. It will bounce, and with each bounce, will spill a little more of its contents while you scrabble to grab it. By the time you get a firm grip on it, it will be almost empty. You will call for paper towels, and your preoccupied husband will hand you two. Two. Ah-hem. More about him later.

As the laptop screen goes dark and the speakers go silent, it will start to sink in what you have done. You will scramble to unplug it and give the speaker cord to your husband and his dry computer. You will try not to think of the fact that you just bought this fancy new laptop less than six months ago. You will try not to remember that you chose not to get the extended warranty or the accidental coverage. Most important, you will refuse to think about the fact that the book you just finished after eight months of nighttime and weekend writing is on that hard drive. The one you just poured wine all over.

You will put the laptop upside down on what, in our household, is referred to as a “car towel.” I don’t know what other people call them; my family didn’t have car towels. When our towels got old we threw them out. But here, in the family my husband and I have built, we keep our old towels for messy jobs like washing a car. Drying a dog. Or major spills of red wine.

That will be the end of the night for you. The buzz will be killed. The music will be silenced. The dread will settle in. You will have a terrible, sleepless night, tossing and turning and wondering how long it has been since you backed up the book on your external hard drive. You have a complete print-out of book I, because you have been giving chapters to the intern at work, who is a huge fan of YA lit. You also have three chapters printed out of Book II. Too bad you had written four chapters.

Of course, the next morning, you will try to turn it on, convinced that your memory of the screen fizzling was imagined. You will be momentarily encouraged when the HP logo appears on the screen, but then it will go black and, in white computer programming type, you will be told to install an operating system. Oops.

When it happened to me, I rushed my laptop to the nearest computer store, the one where we’d bought it, and crept up to their service department to offer it in sacrifice. Please, please, find something when you look, I thought to myself.  They didn’t.  The circuitry was completely fried, coated with red goo.  At least it smelled good.  I paid them $10 and trudged out to my car with the carcass.

Now back to my husband.  He can be kind of  dismissive of things I think are important, but he is THE MAN in a real crisis.  While I administered to our daughter, whom we promptly nicknamed “Swiney,” he spent the day on the phone with HP, finding out what my options were.  We decided to send the computer to the experts in California, and he handled all of it.  When we checked the status online, it said, “Probably beyond economic repair.”  The fee to make the carcass into a working computer again would have been $1,065.00.  I went out that day and bought a new one.

I realized I had been in a period of mourning. Now that sounds ridiculous and melodramatic, doesn’t it? Mourning should be reserved for the end of life, or the end of love. But I’ve been thinking about this, and that’s the only moniker I can put on the way I felt for the two weeks following the disaster.  The only thing that lifted me out of my depression was getting a new computer, and loading my complete literary works (one finished, unedited, unpublished manuscript and four chapters of another) back onto its hard drive.

As I look back on the laptop/wine disaster, I realize that I’ve learned some things. Some are obvious. Back up your work every night, for example. (Yeah. Duh.) Don’t drink so much that you are in danger of getting clumsy. Good rules to live by.

But other learnings from this disaster have been less obvious.  First, and this one sounds trite, I know, don’t place so much faith in inanimate objects.  In the end, it is the people who matter, not the objects, no matter how shiny.  Second, a glass of wine isn’t necessary to relax.  The thing I missed during those two weeks was not my pretty computer, or my e-mails or my documents, but the world I’d created and been living in for eight months.  I felt as though I’d been ripped out of it without warning.  (A little like a certain heroine I know.)  To overcome this feeling, I took to writing longhand, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing, either.  I enjoy the flow of words from the tip of my pen, and the writing comes out just as well.

Before the computer/wine disaster, I had actually fooled myself into thinking that a wee bit of wine enhanced my writing skills, lubricating my word choice like oil to a bike chain.  Alas, no more will my writing be enhanced by the fruit of the vine, if indeed it ever was.  Instead I will drink coffee, placing my cup a considerable distance from the keyboard, and be thankful that I have the means to replace an inanimate object when I need to.  I will also be thankful to put this disaster behind me.  Now, back to writing.

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5 Responses to “Reflections on a laptop/wine disaster”

  1. sara Says:

    Oh wow. That is so horrible 😦 Did you get ANY of your manuscript back? My heart is hurting for you.

    • allyriabookauthor Says:

      I have all but the last two weeks’ worth backed up to an external drive. I keep telling myself when I retype those I will make them better! 🙂

  2. Lis Garrett Says:

    One of my worst fears is my computer giving out on me, and I completely understand your fear of losing all your work. I”m glad you were able to retrieve the majority of it. I try to save my work to my external hard drive at the end of the day, ’cause I know the worst is bound to happen one of these days (I say, as I place my coffee cup FAR away).

  3. allyriabookauthor Says:

    Yep, all’s well that ends well. Now if I could only retrieve all my music from my iPod onto the new computer….hmmm….that’s tonight’s project.

  4. Simon L. Says:

    I’ve spilled coffee on my laptop before, and it does pretty much the same thing. Fortunately, I’m enough of a geek (engineering degree) that I know how to take a laptop apart, detach the keyboard, dry between the keys, peel off the clear, sticky plastic on the back of the keyboard, swab a paper towel in there to get the liquid of the circuits, leave the thing open on the kitchen table overnight, hope I can get up before the kids so they don’t destroy it further, put it all back together, pray, hit the on button, pray some more, then do a little happy rejoicing dance in the kitchen because it works, and I don’t have to explain to my boss how I killed a company laptop while using it at home for personal stuff.

    I think I lost track of what I was saying halfway through the sentence. Oh, well. Moral of the story: you may as well just drink wine, ’cause coffee will bugger your laptop just as easily. I wouldn’t want you unnecessarily depriving yourself, good lady.

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