A glass of wine and a MacBook Air don’t mix

We have two MacBook Airs in our house. One of them—a basic, off-the-shelf model—travels around the house and goes on the road. It’s only 11 months old, but it’s become a ubiquitous companion, and tends to spend a lot of time on the kitchen island, which also serves as the day-to-day dining table. (You can probably tell where this is going, can’t you?)

A few weeks ago at dinnertime, we were enjoying some wine. As usual, the MacBook Air was nearby, open, and in use. I brought the finished plates around, and in the dim light forgot where the wine glass had been left. Knock. Bang. Oh crap.

I put the plate down instantly, grabbed the MacBook, and instinctively turned it upside down immediately, powering it down on the way over, and put the keyboard face down on a kitchen towel on the edge of a counter. This is where it should have remained for several days minimum, but instead is where things sorta went south.

Impatient to understand the scope of damage, I attempted to “help” the situation by, after dinner, firing-up a compressor and blowing at the keyboard, mopping-up the red liquid as it oozed out the edges of the keys, assuming that the keyboard certainly was more isolated from the guts of the machine. (Very bad assumption, and with the über-thin MacBook Air, incorrect.) Had I just left it alone, upside down, the wine would have dried, and while I probably would have had to lift off the key caps and clean things a bit, the computer itself would likely have survived.

Instead, applying compressed air drove the liquid more deeply into the unit. Despite attempting to dry it out under a fan, it never did power back on, and it was time to see what this little mistake was going to cost.

I called Apple support assuming that there was a single, flat-rate “we’ll fix whatever’s wrong” repair cost. That too was a poor assumption; I was required instead to take it to the Genius Bar at the nearest Apple Store. Easy enough, and the support rep scheduled the visit on the spot.

Once in-store, the genius who attended to us stated the obvious (“this sort of damage is not covered by the warranty”), and said they’d need to open-up the unit to assess the scope of the damage. After a short wait came the bad news: They can repair it in-store at a premium, or do a depot repair for $750. Ouch. (That was one hellishingly expensive glass of wine.) OK, well, depot repair it is. Cheaper than a new one, right?

After completing all the necessary paperwork, I sort of assumed that the reality would be that they’d replace it completely with a refurbished unit. We use Time Machine here for backups, and we had a current one, so restoring the data would be a piece of cake. They shipped the unit out the following day, promising it’d be back in about a week.

In truth, it was back in three days, overnight shipped to us. The report included with the unit detailed everything they replaced, which was, bluntly, most everything other than the display: keyboard, main board, and numerous other things including the bottom panel. Firing it up, I was shocked to see that it powered-up with the data intact. At least the red wine hadn’t destroyed that too.

If there’s any upside, it’s that it was, for all intents and purposes, a brand new machine all over again.

The Apple support and repair experience was top-notch. Apple products and services come at a premium, there’s no doubt about that. But concierge-like customer experiences come with that price tag, as they should, and it makes the spend a little more tolerable, I suppose. But I have to say, I felt stupid enough spilling an entire glass of wine into an expensive little laptop; at least Apple made everything that followed as painless as possible (other than, perhaps, the $750 charge on my credit card).

The moral of the story? Well, it’s pretty basic: Keep your tech gear well clear of food and beverage unless you’re prepared to pay for the consequences. It’s more expensive than you might imagine.