You know, it’s my fault for not reading the microtext on the AppleCare plan. If I’d read it, I would have taken my three hundred dollars and used it to make little bonfires in the cupboards to keep the mice warm in winter and surrounded them with little hot chocolate marshmallows on toothpicks because that would have been adorable and if I’d managed to catch a mouse actually holding a tiny marshmallow over a cupboard bonfire my YouTube account would go plague.
Instead, I metaphorically burned six Grants at the Apple altar to buy a warranty that doesn’t cover accidents. I bought three years of slightly cheaper service repairs if the equipment I already spent two grand on fails because they didn’t whip a Chinese child hard enough that day. I paid extra up front to pay slightly less in the future if I have to deal with a potential situation where they screwed up, which doesn’t exactly scream confidence in the projected runtime of their hardware. My Zippo came with a free lifetime warranty, and it’s supposed to be on fire.
For nine Grants, I might have gotten what I actually wanted with the AppleCare+ that provides the protection I assumed I was getting because all the promo materials shout AppleCare+. I would even have dropped the money, because most Apple products that aren’t iPhones are solid examples of engineering that don’t spontaneously fail.1 The only thing I wanted was coverage for the drinks I was going to spill on it, because that’s what happens to laptops.
I have spilled drinks on all my laptops. Other people have spilled drinks on my laptops. I’ve spilled drinks on other people’s laptops. That’s what happens to laptops. That, and getting dropped. There is no economically rational reason to buy laptop insurance for anything besides spilling your drink on it or dropping it down stairs, hence my assumption that all that extra money would be going towards the day I dropped my laptop and smashed a full wine glass on it.
That day came about eight months later, and I’m not completely sure how it happened because I was facing the other way, but somehow when I tripped over the power cord, it whipped my laptop off the counter to hit the floor face up, and pulled the full wine glass down after it to shatter on the keyboard. After a half hour with some paper towels and a night to dry off, it worked pretty well, because Apple products that aren’t iPhones are solid examples of engineering that can take a little user error without giving up. The only issues were the H key and the shift key sticking, leading to a lot of SEntenches lIKE tihsh wihchh is annoying when you’re writing but not a deal breaker for daily use.
But annoyances like tihsh are what I ponied up all those Grants to avoid, so after the Apple rep on the phone tells me they can do a quick in-store cleanup, I drag the thing to the nearest place where concentrated hipness has undergone gravitational collapse and created an Apple Store, where the rep at the counter says no of course they can’t fix it in-store because it’s liquid and they’ll have to send it to Texas, which both I and the rep on the phone should have known.
I didn’t have time to wait for my laptop to commute to Texas for its healthcare, so I stalked out of the store and sucked it up for a few months until I spilled the next glass of wine on it because that’s what happens to laptops and the A, Q, X, C, and control keys got sticky and using Vim became downright frightening.
“Okay,” I said, “I’ve got some time now, I can cart my work laptop around, time to cash in on that sweet sweet warranty, which I don’t yet know won’t cover the repairs.” I carted it down to Mikey’s Hookup, explained the wine situation, and they said they’d have to send it to Texas, which I know. There’s some miscommunication here, because I leave with the impression that it’ll be off to Texas that day and I’ll get it back next week.
Instead, next week brings this:
Did they really have to spend a week diagnosing the problem I told them about? Probably. Whatever. This is where I do my research and discover I only had the Blood Diamond Exxxtreme warranty instead of the Unfathomable Sacred Myrrh warranty, and fixing it was going to cost seven Grants more than what I could sell it for even if I hadn’t gotten it drunk. So I send the thirty-something’s equivalent of “lol gtfo” and picked it up.
It just needed the keys cleaned. Seriously. Sure, it set off every liquid sensor that was there to be set off, sure, that means they have have to send it to Texas, sure, Texas is going to yank out everything with a lit liquid sensor because nobody messes with Texas, and sure, I’m sure all this has to do with ostensibly sensible risk management policies, but it does look just the tiniest bit like a byzantine system of excuses designed to get me to buy a new machine. Since the last MacBook I did this to is still running happily six years later, I’m pretty sure we all could have ignored the liquid sensors and a technician with the proper tools for popping out a butterfly key could have picked up a bottle of rubbing alcohol and cleaned out my keyboard, but since they won’t I had to do it myself.
There are a few dozen videos about popping out these keys. This guy’s got magic fingers and does it with a guitar pick, but I prefer the needle method, as demonstrated by this guy with highly questionable opinions about audio mastering. I’m not going to make a video because I only fix computers after a few glasses of wine and a video is just too much to pay attention to.
For many of the keys, I had to pop the actual butterfly mechanism out because it had dried wine under it and that was the whole problem. Yeah, you might break it, but I did it fifteen times with a solid buzz going and they all just popped out and back in. If it doesn’t come with the actual key cover when you’re prying it off with needles, just stick a needle under the center hinges on each side and it’ll come out.
Next, dip a swab in the rubbing alcohol and work out the wine. I kept some compressed air nearby to get rid of the swab fibers and wine flakes. Swipe out the excess alcohol with the other end of the swab, or soak it out with a paper towel and some capillary action. The thing survived two glasses of wine, so I wasn’t too neurotic about a little stray isopropyl.
As for the keys and hinges, I cheated a bit by having one of these:
… And doing a little detail scraping with a needle.
Getting the keys back on is the biggest hassle, since if you’ve popped the mechanism, it won’t always snap back in properly and you’ll have to pry it back out and try again. The spacebar is the worst. Keep trying. I am, but even if the spacebar made me doubt the wisdom of the whole experiment, I will set this laptop on fire before Apple gets one more zinc Lincoln for it.2
Let it dry for a bit, and BAM! Tahth problem is gone and Vim stops randomly pasting YouTube urls into your bootloader. Final cost: Four hours and ten Suzy B’s.
If the hard drive goes, I’ll find a way to fix that too. If the battery goes and I can’t order a replacement I will make one with baby rabbits and cocaine. I will build a computer out of tinker toys and install Window ME on it before I send anything to Texas. I’m sick of the brazen insistence on making everything work like no other computer and twice as hard to fix. I’m sure being the imperial measurements company in a metric system world works great for customer loyalty and obsolescence through obstinance, but you know what? That’s how we lose spaceships. And sure, maybe someday I’ll need an imperial MacBook to take out some spaceships, so I guess keep the operating system, but most of the time, my concern is just keeping the thing running and the control key unstuck, and the harder you make that, the closer I get to becoming an apostate and crawling back to Microsoft, because at least they didn’t pretend the beatings were raising morale.
1 Conversely, not one of my many iPhones has made it a full year without self-destructing for no obvious reason.
2 This turned out to be helpful. FYI, the reason he broke half the clamps is because those four were hooks; instead of trying to pry them all up, pry out the snaps and then just unhook the hinges. The reason I broke all the hooks is getting everything snapped back in is a huge pain.