(update: after two days of nothing, the device is now booting again and Panasonic have offered to take a closer look at it and tell me what happened.)
My faith in my Panasonic Toughbook took a bath today when a waitress poured coffee all over it (and me.) It’s that absurd thing that waiters do of having to put coffee and food down right next to you when you’re clearly in the middle of a key discussion/interview/meeting/nap. It was bound to happen.
Still, I held out hope the Toughbook would be up to it. After all, the videos show guys doing stuff to their Toughbook we wouldn’t do to our partners (unless they asked us to.) I splashed the coffee off under a tap, knowing the damage coffee can wreak. To no avail: within minutes the screen went blank and the thing died.
Now I know why they call them ‘drop- and spill- resistant”. If it’s a spill, you might be ok, so long as it’s purified water. And “resistant”? It resists it, like Niles would Maris.
I bought a new one and am charging the hotel for it; they’ve agreed but I’ll send the lawyers home when I see the money. I happen to have a recording of the point when the coffee is spilt. It goes something like this:
Interviewee: in a fast growth economy like India. Bangladesh, meanwhile.. [sound of crockery slipping, liquid spilling] oo shit!
Flaks (in chorus): oh no!
Me: (bizarrely quietly) Interesting…
Flaks (in chorus): oh dear!
Me: (still bizarrely quietly) OK…
[Sound of waitress disemboweling self with sugar spoon]
Lessons from all this?
- Don’t order coffee in five star hotel lobbies when you’ve got a laptop in the area.
- Don’t believe any waterproof claims from laptop manufacturers. Turns out that spillage only applies to the keyboard. You can see the waitress managed to get the latte everywhere except the keyboard.
- Don’t settle for less from those responsible than full replacement immediately. I made it clear to the phalanx of hotel management that they would face serious claims if I did not check and rehouse the hard drive as quickly as possible and that meant buying a replacement computer immediately (it helped I was down the road from the place I bought it at the time. Singapore is like that.) It’s not about the computer: it’s really about the data, but it’s also about your day. You’re a working stiff and you don’t deserve to sit on your hands while they try to wriggle out of a full refund.
- Back up your data regularly. I was lucky; the hard drive was safe. But I bet a lot wouldn’t be.
This, by the way, is what Panasonic say at the bottom of the page on spillage:
Furthermore, if you spill coffee, soft drinks, or similar liquids on the computer, the keyboard or other parts of the unit may become stained. Sugar and other substances may also cause corrosion, so liquids other than water are more problematic. Deal with such spills in the same way as directed for water and then have the unit checked.
Be aware that the spill resistance of these products in no way guarantees that liquids will not harm them or cause breakdowns.