Water + Toshiba Satellite A505 = Frozen Pizza

It’s funny how I couldn’t think of anything to write about until I killed my computer.

I was carrying it out to the balcony to do some work on the first not-100-degree day in like a month when I spilled at least half a glass of water on the keyboard. I couldn’t put it down or flip it over fast enough. The water settled in between the keys as I moaned and tried to convince it to stop, you know, possessing the qualities of liquid.

When I could, I flipped it over, shook out whatever would shake out, and then dried it off with my skirt. Inside my place, I dried it off again, grabbed toilet paper and dried between the keys.

I hit the power button.

A flutter of light. Then nothing.

I hit it again. Same results.

Hair dryer. I need the hair dryer.

I carted the laptop – which was only 14 months old – into the bathroom and started blowing it dry. Maybe the heat setting is bad. Cool air button.

I took the battery out, put it back in. Tried the power.


If I had the sweet kind of relationship with my mother, I would have wanted her at this point.

I called my IT guy at work and left a voicemail about what one should do if one hypothetically spilled half a glass of water on one’s laptop. Not at all surprisingly, the IT guy did not fix my computer problem.

I called Brad and BIL1, both great with computers. Brad had no suggestions other than what I had done. BIL1 was more educated, but less positive.

“Yeah, you probably fried the motherboard.”


“You might be able to unscrew some things and get the keyboard off, and then you can dry underneath it. I did that when I spilled milk on mine once.”

I went digging through my tool box (read: Rubbermaid storage container full of crap dating back to 1995) and found the proper screwdriver while BIL1 asked about my warranty.

“I don’t know what I got. I don’t remember, and I have no idea where it is, ” I told him, twisting tiny screws.

“Well, you can call and find out what you have,” he said.

“Yeah, but… won’t that tell them that I’ve done something to the laptop?”

I get paranoid about stuff like this. I picture them typing it into my account info: Asked re: coverage, extension, type of coverage, 8/4. Then I go waltzing in all, “My computer isn’t working,” and they’re like, “You called, right?” and my grand plan to pretend absolutely nothing happened to the laptop goes out the window because I am such a bad liar that I start in with a facial tic before I even attempt the lie.

“Well,” said BIL1, “sometimes taking apart the computer voids the warranty, so…”

Okay, retwisting tiny screws now.

“…And you don’t want to try to turn it back on for at least a day. Let it dry completely, or if you haven’t already fried it, you will.”

I couldn’t form the words to say I’d tried three times already.

The lack of contact with the outside world had already started eating at me before I even hung up the phone. And all of a sudden, there was so much stuff I needed to write about. I whimpered. I didn’t even have paper. Who needs paper when you have a laptop? Forget internet access; I couldn’t even type. Faced with the understanding that it would be at least 24 hours before I could even try to boot up again, I was freaking out. I paced. I chewed my lip. I looked around.

I had to leave the apartment.

I went to the grocery store to fetch cat food and sour cream for the scones I wanted to make. Once there, I blindly cruised aisles I didn’t need to be in, mentally mumbling half-thoughts to myself like the guy in “Office Space.” Without realizing it, I stood unblinking in front of the frozen pizzas. When I snapped back to consciousness, I wandered away, fighting the urge to become an emotional eater.

The grocery store had been a bad idea. I was hungry, and I was upset. Danger, Will Robinson.

Forcing myself to buy only what I needed, I proceeded to the checkout with cat food, sour cream, a small frozen pizza (oh, leave me alone), a college rule notebook and a package of pens.

Wow, I thought as I looked sadly at my basket. I am a pathetic loser. The cat food seals it.

(Cat food is like feminine hygiene products. I try to make sure I need other things when I go to the store to get it. God forbid everyone know it’s the only reason I’m there.)

It was a Thursday at 5pm in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Forget it. There were four checkout lanes open, and three of them were “express,” meaning those lines were so long that I had to double down in the line behind the woman who had apparently done her shopping for the month. Standing there, I started writing this post in my head. Longhand, there’s no delete key, and cutting and pasting is way harder. I had to get started mentally now, to work out the kinks.

I compulsively checked my email and Facebook on my phone.

Twenty minutes later, still standing in line, I realized what I could lose if the laptop was complete toast. I have an external hard drive, given to me by my boyfriend for my 33rd birthday, as I was getting ready to buy a new computer. It has all the files from the old laptop, plus a “mix tape” he put on it weeks after we broke up – a sort of gallant gesture that fulfilled a promise he’d made to enhance the somewhat un-romantic gift with which he intended to make life easier for me by giving me a way to transfer everything easily from the old computer to the new one. Very thoughtful, really. But apart from the old files and enough music to play from now until my death without ever repeating a single song, the hard drive is empty. It doesn’t have a single thing on it since I bought the new laptop… because seeing the hard drive reminded me of the boyfriend.

We won’t get into that.

Point is, I hadn’t backed up anything from the new computer. Pictures, revisions of my resume, my cover letters, the beginning of a book I started writing, the video I took on the Mickey Boat, including my sisters doing a very, very poor – but absolutely gut-busting, pants-peeing hilarious – Charlie’s Angels impersonation… all of it gone if I couldn’t get my laptop back.

I entered the Bargaining Stage. If I can just get it to turn on one more time so I can back everything up to that hard drive… I can ding the Future Real Estate Fund to buy a new laptop if I have to.


I went home, dug the notebook and pens out of the grocery bag and started writing out this post. By the time I got to the sentence you just read, I’d forgotten what other posts I’d been formulating in my head. (How did anybody remember things before computers?) The laptop sat, open and dark, its guts possibly destroyed by the least threatening thing in the developed world, its battery removed. Taunting me.

It’s a good thing I was getting together with Ali that night and driving to my sister’s the next day to go to a concert. The urge to try to power my baby up before it had dried out was too great. I felt as fried as the laptop might be. I thought of what might be gone for good and how much hassle it is to set up a new computer, and I flopped down to eat my pizza.

Woe is me. I am woe.

Now I’m functioning off a backup laptop: my old one, which I gave to Ali when I bought the new one. It has an aqua blue line down the center of the screen and it’s slow, but it works. Thank goodness for friends who can’t afford their own internet service and can’t pick up a signal from someone else’s unsecured wifi. I’m still terrified of what happens when I try to turn on my computer again. BIL1 says I might be able to get the motherboard replaced and avoid buying a new computer altogether for the second time in 14 months.

Hold me.


23 thoughts on “Water + Toshiba Satellite A505 = Frozen Pizza

  1. You are too funny! I couldn’t stop laughing, even though I was feeling really, really bad for you. I’ll bet if you can’t get it going again, some geek squad person will be able to retrieve your files. After all, the FBI seems to be able to do things like that. Maybe you could take it to the FBI and tell them you bought it from some strange guy on Craig’s list and you think it has subversive things on it and could they check it out for you. I’m just trying to help you out here…

    • Hmm… the FBI. You might be on to something. Sadly, my paranoia would probably get worse. Next thing you know I’d have a fried computer and neighbors who want to know why my home is being raided.

  2. I am amazed that you can keep such composure and such a sense of humor in the face of such tragedy. One “blue screen” and my life seems to come to a complete halt, terror starts to permeate my mind and my blood seems to stop coursing through my veins. You are doing great! (And, while I don’t know about the feminine things and don’t own a cat, I certainly would not disparage anyone who just bought cat food. I’ve seen that plenty of times in the store.)

    I also know that you are probably not looking for computer advice, but the good news is that your data is probably all OK. I would suggest waiting a week before you try to turn your laptop back on. If it fails to turn on, it is probably cheaper to get a new one than to have your current one repaired. If you have to buy a new one, it is a simple matter to remove the old hard drive, put it in a USB device and copy all the data to a new computer. If you ask around where you work you will find someone who will be glad to help you out with this. (I know from experience.)

    You are so right. How did we every do “life” with just paper and pencils? It is had to believe that a few short years ago there were no personal computers, but we communicated. I also marvel at how many papers I typed without the aid of a delete key. (OK, there was white-out.) Were we really that much better at composing our thoughts before we put them to paper?

    Love your posts!!

    • Oh, no, I had all those things you described. I just had to try not to run through the streets screaming. Thanks for giving me hope for the data. I haven’t tried to turn the computer on yet. It’s sitting here next to me, trying to seduce me into pushing its buttons… but I’m scared of what will happen.

      As for whether we were better at putting together our thoughts – I think the answer is no. When I was younger, I hated revising anything I’d written; generally my first draft was better than subsequent drafts. That’s different now.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. I commend you that your post is full of humor but frankly that would be pissing me off. I hate computer problems of anykind. Luckily most of mine have been easy fixes. I have had things spilled on keyboards and they dried out and continued working. I will hope the same for you. Bob S. is right, nearly all data can be retrieved from your computer and put on a new one but it costs if you have to pay a tech to do it. Perhaps you have techy friends that could do you a favor.

    Hope you get your computer working. Good luck!

    • Oh, I was a basketcase. If it weren’t for the backup laptop I got back from Ali, I’d be in serious, serious mental health trouble. We’ll see what happens in a few days when I work up the guts to try to turn it on again!

  4. Oh, my, you are like a freaking soap opera. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never killed a laptop … when you turn mine over and shake it you get no liquid but tons of crumbs. While crumbs can’t kill a computer, they can cause some interesting keyboard malfunctions, lik whn thy collct undr a particular ky so it won’t work or make it stttttttick whenever you ttttttry ttttto tttttype a partttticular lettttttter. By the way, some of us think a woman buying just cat food is sexy.

    • No crumbs in my laptop. If it never works again, maybe I can use it as a tray table.

      PS you’ve just given hope to crazy cat ladies all over the country. (I’m not one of them… don’t be offended…)

  5. I feel your pain and I’m feeling so sorry for you right now! I have permanently deleted entire huge files (full of stuff I needed to make movies I was either working on or about to work on), because I clicked on the wrong icon. They were too big for the recycle bin and when it said, “permanently delete?”, I was not paying enough attention to realize it was the wrong file. TWICE, I say! Twice I did this! So, I feel you. Plus my computer crashed last year. Your heart just sinks into your stomach. I kept thinking, this didn’t happen, say it’s okay, say it will come back, no, no, no…as if wishing it weren’t so would make it not so…but knowing that it is so.

    I have those external hard drive backup things, and now I have all my old stuff on there. You are reminding me that I really need to take a few minutes (or however long it takes) to back everything new up. I do print all my posts, just in case. That is a lot of work that I would never even remember all of it, much less be able to re-create it.

    Good luck!!! I sure do hope it starts back up. And if it doesn’t, I bet you can get your stuff off of there, like they say.

    • It’s amazing how much damage a little water can do. Well, I don’t know whether it’s really done anything. I haven’t tried yet. I just keep taking deep breaths. Your thing with the deleted files… that’s horrific.

      • Horrific about sums it up. Twice! What an idiot.

        The second time, I immediately went online and bought a recovery program. It worked, so that’s good. But it was all because I was doing a few things at once and not paying enough attention. And when I started (I was actually backing up files onto the external drives and making space on my computer – Irony), I thought, “remember what happened last time, you need to really pay attention to what you’re doing…don’t get distracted.” Did I listen?

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