A reader recently asked me what the first column I wrote for the paper was.
After digging through the archives, I found one from 1997.
It was the story about the person (me) who spilled cappuccino-espresso coffee all over their brand-new HP (Hewlett Packard) OmniBook laptop computer.
So, without further ado, here is “A Personal Experience,” originally published Dec. 15, 1997, and re-edited for today’s publication.
After drinking some fresh hazelnut cappuccino coffee, I placed the cup on the desk next to my laptop computer.
Over the course of the next hour, I took great care in making sure I didn’t commit the cardinal sin of all computer users: spilling something on the computer.
However, this time when I reached for the recently refilled cup, it fell over and spilled coffee on the laptop’s keyboard.
“I don’t believe I did this,” I blurted out loud to no one in the room, except my cat, who was staring at me.
After quickly disconnecting power from the computer, I moved it off the lake of cappuccino coffee which had pooled on top of my desk.
I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a dish towel, ran back into the den, and was frantically wiping the coffee off the computer.
It was too late.
The espresso and steamed milk coffee had overwhelmed, and taken up residence inside my laptop computer.
Adding to my despair, the cat was still in the room observing my hysterics and appeared to be smiling at me.
After calming down, I logically assessed the situation.
I placed the computer back on the desk and pressed its power button.
Nothing happened. There were no lights, no sound no nothing.
You know that sinking feeling one gets in the pit of their stomach when one realizes something terrible has occurred?
Yep. That’s what I was feeling.
A glimmer of hope arose when I remembered the computer was still under warranty.
“I’ll just drop it off and have it repaired or replaced,” I thought.
Before leaving the house, I put fresh food and water into the cat bowls, and said to my meowing cat, “Don’t make a mess while I’m gone.”
I placed the laptop on the passenger seat of my car and drove off to where I had purchased it.
As I walked into the computer showroom with the laptop tucked under my arm, a salesman walked up to me, looked at my computer with the coffee stains on it, smiled, and asked if I needed anything.
Yes, I know why he was smiling.
“Well, I had an accident and spilled cappuccino on my computer, but it should still be under warranty,” I told him.
He smiled and walked over to his computer to look up my warranty information.
By the way, I noticed there were no coffee cups near his computer.
“The good news is that the computer is still under warranty.” He said. “The bad news is that the warranty doesn’t cover spills. We could look at it and see if it can be repaired, though.”
Since I was there, I decided to have them try to repair my laptop.
While watching the computer technician working on my computer, I began to feel a little anxious; he was having a difficult time removing the laptop’s cover.
“They seem to put the screws on these computers in the hardest-to-find places,” the technician nervously said to me.
I smiled and thought maybe I should leave and come back later.
Reassuring the technician, I said, “Well, I know how it feels to have someone staring over your shoulder while you’re trying to work on something. I have a few things to do downtown, and will stop back in a half hour and see how you’re coming along.”
“Thanks,” the technician said with noticeable relief in his voice.
While driving, I pondered, “Maybe I should have taken the laptop battery out to see if it would work only with AC power. The battery itself could be shorted out.”
Thinking I had found the answer and could save time, I called the technician on my car phone and asked him to try that and see if it would power up.
A minute later I heard, “Nope. Good idea though,” the technician told me.
After driving around for 30 minutes, I went back to the store to ask how it was going.
“It is working now!” said the salesman, smiling as he approached me.
The technician had opened up the computer and used a compressed-air sprayer to dry out the electronic components.
“Shouldn’t be long now; there is just one minor thing we are checking,” the salesman told me.
I nodded and wandered around the store looking at the new computers on display.
Twenty minutes went by.
Walking back to the salesman, I asked how it was going with my computer.
“We can’t seem to get the mouse to work,” he told me.
“What mouse? I didn’t bring it in with my mouse,” I said.
“The technician had connected a mouse to your computer; it wasn’t working, so they thought there was another problem,” he replied.
“You need to use the specific mouse that operates with my laptop’s HP mouse driver file,” I responded.
The salesman stood silent; thinking about what I said, and then nodded his head.
“I’ll be back with your laptop in a minute,” he assuredly said to me.
I got my laptop back (after paying a nominal repair fee), and returned home.
After placing the computer back on the desk, I powered it up.
Everything booted up fine; my software programs (and mouse) worked as before.
This experience taught me a valuable lesson: keep the beverage cups away from the computer.
I want to end today’s column by wishing my mother, a happy 88th birthday, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”