I Spilled Coffee All Over My Computer

There are people out there that don't drink coffee. When I was ten years old I was like that too: walking around like life was fine without it. But when I was ten, I also thought that women should never pay for a date, and that "Lord of the Rings" was a shitty trilogy. Ten-year-old me, in other words, was pretty dumb. Let me clarify: it's not so much that I think people who don't drink coffee are DUMB, per se; it's just that I think they're ill-informed about what is important in life. Coffee is important in life. If everyone just drank coffee, there probably wouldn't be war.

So I guess I think it's sort of cute when people say, "I would never drink coffee by my computer." It's like they are saying, "I would never wear shoes while going on a run," or, "I would never ride a bicycle with wheels on it." Sure it's POSSIBLE not to drink coffee by one's computer. Is it easy? No. Is it advised? No. Is it safe? Probably not. When I hear that people are not drinking coffee by their computers, my thought is, "Well that's why you're not getting work done, people. That's the main reason the work is not happening for you."

I love coffee, and no one is going to convince me to STOP loving coffee. In the past few years, science has started to back me up on this: teams of (caffeine-addicted, coffee-crazed) researches have proven that coffee makes you smarter, improves your physical performance, lowers your risk of Type II diabetes, lowers your risk of Alzheimer's, and makes you happier. To those of you who are out there saying, "They used to say stuff like that about cigarettes, too," I say: SHHHH.

Also, I'm snobby about my coffee. I special order it from Portland and it comes in a box to my doorstep every month. I get the box, open the box, smell the box, feel OK about being alive, and go about my day-to-day. This box is the primary reason I can get up in the morning. It's an important box. So last Sunday morning, like clockwork, I made a big cup of the best coffee on earth (it's Stumptown, by the way, and don't argue with me about that; I'm 100% sure about it), and sat down at my computer. There was work to get done, and the coffee was there, and so the work was going to get done. The weather was beautiful, my roommates had cooked a big Sunday morning breakfast, and I was feeling pretty good about everything. 

The coffee spilled on my computer exactly the way coffee would spill on a computer in a stock photo of coffee spilling on a computer. The very full mug weaseled its way from my grip with an impressive bounce and splattered across the keyboard of my (brand new, very expensive -- like, I'm-still-in-debt-from-it-and-will-be-for-the-foreseeable-future-expensive) MacBook Air in slow motion. The motherboard made a melodramatic little "thwip" noise, and then everything went black.

"See? This is why I never drink coffee by my computer," say the people. Like I said before, I think that's cute. But my computer would be useless without the coffee. The coffee is as important to the computer's productivity as the keyboard or the screen or the hard drive. The computer needs the coffee. Really, we can't blame the coffee for wanting to be closer to the computer. At least, this is my attitude NOW, after a significant amount of processing time. In the moment, I wasn't so forgiving.

I engaged in the kind of disbelief that comes with certain traumas. I reacted quietly but desperately, shaking my computer out in the garden, swabbing at it with a beach towel, submerging it in rice, blowing on it. Nothing revived the computer. In my room, hunched over my dead hunk of a livelihood, I quietly wept. It wasn't a brave, controlled weep, either. It was the kind of agonized weep that you see on "Scandal" when one of Olivia Pope's clients has discovered that a loved one has died. 

My roommate Hannah lovingly researched wet computer remedies on the Internet, but things seemed pretty bleak. "MacBook Airs are fuzed together, so submerging them in rice won't work," she said. "The only thing that might do anything is holding it over a fan for 96 hours. You can't turn it on until the 96 hours is up, either." Initially, I felt so desperate about the situation that I was willing to personally hold the computer in my two hands over a fan for four days. Hannah said that probably wasn't necessary; we would be able to rig something to do that for me.

At least four days without a computer? How was I supposed to do that? Everything I do happens on a computer. I use the computer to write. I use the computer to look at pictures to paint. I scan things onto the computer. I do all my lesson plans on the computer. I WATCH "SCANDAL" ON THE COMPUTER. Not to mention all the things that are ON my computer: books I've laid out, essays I've written, literary erotica I've downloaded! My most significant and functional relationship is with my computer. And now my computer is dead.

My roommates were sensitive to my pain, but they had stuff to do, so they left me to wallow. But wallowing is hard without a computer. Normally, I wallow by lying in my bed with the Gilmore Girls, wishing I lived in Stars' Hollow, and contemplating walking to the gas station to buy an ice cream Twix bar. That was impossible given the circumstances. What was I supposed to do? I decided, with great resignation, that I would just have to go outside for a while.

New Orleans in October is unreal. People who live here consider this the best season the city gives up: after a hot, wet summer full of tropical storms and sticky-dark humidity, the clouds lift and we get days that peak in the low 80s, and drop to comfortable sweater temperatures at night. I live by the Bayou St. John, which gets glittery and dark blue when the sky is clear, and chokes out scads of sun-bathing turtles and stalky blue herons. There are five tall live oak trees that line the bayou on the other side, and in October, the shade is prime real estate for PDA-plagued couples and gaggles of boombox-toting croquet-playing college students. On beautiful days like that, you can usually find me in my house, in front of my computer, drinking a cup of coffee.

But when my MO was rendered impossible, I grumpily got on my bike and headed down the bayou towards City Park. I wasn't expecting the world to open up the way it did; I was way too gloomy and defeated to believe that anything was good about life when I left the house. But then I saw this little kid with blonde hair floating a homemade pirate boat near the bridge by the water, and I had a tiny Grinch-heart moment. I watched his parents watch him, and I watched him watch his boat, and I thought about how they'd recall it someday in the future, when the weather got cold and they needed to remember something perfect.

When I got to the park, I lay under a big, ground-scraping tree and listened to the sounds. The park was crowded in the best kind of way: you could watch and listen to other peoples' lives for the entire day. There were two weddings in the shady part of the park, beneath the elegant Spanish moss. Clusters of families attempted to take big family photos (because the light was just right). There was this one mom who was trying so desperately to get Aidan to smile. She screeched the lyrics to "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" from the movie "Frozen" and frantically wielded a stuffed snowman doll to get Aidan's attention. Aidan had no interest in any of this. Aidan wanted to watch the golden retriever, which was ambling around directly BEHIND the family. The photographer kept saying, "Oh dear, it's just the back of his head again." Then the mom would scream, "AIDAN! AIDAN! DO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE DISNEY STORE! AIDAN! THE DISNEY STORE! I'LL TAKE YOU LOOK HERE AIDAN DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN AAAIIIDDDANN." And Aidan continued to ignore her. This took quite a bit of doing: no one within a 500-foot radius could possibly ignore this woman. I was impressed with Aidan.

A kid with jet-black hair and plaid shorts ran right by me and up to the tree branch that had grown into the ground. He said to his sister, who was squatting nearby playing with a ladybug, "This is a REALLY good tree." I thought, "This is a REALLY good tree."

Then all at once it hit me: a computer is only a thing. That's all it is: a weirdly-delicate, coffee-hating thing. A job is only a job, a car is only a car, a phone is only a phone; and all of these can come and go. The people in my life are healthy, which is something so unbelievable and amazing that I don't even remember to remember it sometimes.

That won't always be true, of course. We will lose each other. Love breaks down and falls apart; so does life; so do families. That will be OK, too; that's the natural progression of things, and we can be ready for it. But in the moments when we can be in the park around other people, we ought to just BE IN THE PARK. Let the day wash over us, and be still in everything that is. 

So now I have one more reason to love coffee. Sometimes, coffee spills all over your computer and breaks it. And that can turn out to be unexpectedly awesome.