What Spilling Your Beverage on Your Laptop Teaches You

Spilling a soft drink on your laptop's keyboard isn't the best idea when you are heading abroad to cover a technology conference. Ask me how I know about this subject.

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It was to be the last time I traveled with my 5-year-old Lenovo T61 laptop running Windows XP because, hey, Windows XP support is ending April 8.

So, perhaps, I wasn't taking my usual care and precautions when I placed a cup of bubbling, cold Sprite right next to my open laptop as I was writing on my flight as I was heading to Barcelona, Spain, for Mobile World Congress in February.

Of course, all hell broke loose.

I was typing and talking to the passenger sitting next to me and not really thinking about it as I picked up the brimming cup to take a refreshing gulp of Sprite. But instead of picking the cup up cleanly, the bottom of the clear plastic vessel just grazed the lip of my now-drenched Lenovo, as the cup tipped several tablespoons of soon-to-be-sticky soda all over the keys and chassis of my about-to-be outmoded machine.

At least I laughed. With just six weeks to go before Windows XP was to become a historical footnote in tech history, I had essentially just trashed the machine right before it was to become unusable on its own. I kept thinking about how lucky I was that I hadn't brought my brand-new replacement for the old Lenovo on this trip. My new MacBook Pro 13-inch laptop was sitting at home, safely in my office, far from spilled beverages on crowded flights.

The most amazing part of the embarrassing experience is that something like this had never happened to me before in 14 years of technology reporting and travel for tech conferences. I've written several stories over the years about people who left their laptops locked in their cars, only to return to find the laptops stolen. I've written about people who have done other silly things with their machines, and I always told myself that I will learn from their misfortunes.

That was true, until my KLM flight to Barcelona, when I gave my laptop an inadvertent and unneeded bath in the economy cabin with the rest of the unwashed.

So what do we learn from this tech disaster in mid-flight?

First, all's well that ended well. My old Lenovo didn't die from the spill, and it allowed me to get my work done during the trip, albeit with a keyboard with several keys that stuck like crazy.

Second, the demise of Windows XP meant that my sticky laptop wasn't going to ruin my day. My old Lenovo laptop just didn't matter anymore.

And finally, always remember to follow your own rules—no drinking open beverages around your laptop or other high-tech machines.

You have been reminded. You can thank me later.