On Close Calls and Near Misses

My children’s fondest aims for a long day with no school is to go with Mom to work. 

Mostly because I work in cafes with a computer. And my favorite cafes have both donuts and burritos. Life is good. 

So Tuesday morning the darling five year old packed his briefcase with Richard Scarry, notebook and pen, and a pair of matchbox trucks. For work. He settled in next to me, in the place I know way too well but am very productive. He waited for his bagel, and stared at all the MacBooks around us. 

My coffee had just cooled to perfect temperature when the neighbor to my right needed more space. I moved my coffee and laptop a bit and offered to help Butter take the dust jacket off his book. 

He struggled and his hand slipped. My stainless steel bottle tipped and fell. Twenty ounces of 110 degree coffee and frothy almond milk flooded into my keyboard. 

(Shut it, environmentalists. Dairy takes just as much water to produce, and almond milk is what I want for eleventy reasons, none of which are your beeswax.)

All the Mac users gasped as the coffee fell, pooling in my keyboard. I gasped. And grabbed a towel from Charley, the mom of three who had just made my son’s bagel. I sopped and wiped coffee. I checked in with other customers to make sure we hadn’t ruined their electronics. I tilted my laptop to the side to release another eight ounces, swirling and perfect, onto the table. 

I smiled at my son, who looked worried or shocked; I was too horrified to note which. 

“Whoa. That is a big spill. Are you hurt? I’m not hurt. These people aren’t hurt. My laptop is probably broken. But we can go to a computer mechanic to find out. Come with me, please.”

In the car we talked about how some things cost a lot of money, but they’re still just things. That being healthy and together is more important than my work, even though I would now have more work to do. I told him when things break it doesn’t matter as long as we have each other.

And I did the math in my head: taxes already submitted. Two client deadlines and a conference paper submitted the night before. A week since last backup. Copies of all photos on SD cards and backup drives. 

I wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t scared or mad. I was grateful. 

Butterbean started to say something, then changed his mind. 

“It’s okay,” I said. “You can tell me anything.”

“Well, I’m a little glad your computer broke. Because I want you to stop working.”

Should have seen this talk coming. I never, ever used the computer when Peanut was little. If he was awake, I focused on him. Not true of this little man. This one gets full attention when he asks for it. But he really does have to ask. 

“Yeah,” I said. “I understand that I’ve been working a lot lately and you don’t like me to ignore you. But the nice thing about my work right now is I know it’s coming, so I’m going to work away from home and a babysitter will play with you and pay attention to you. And then, when I’m home, I will be really home. And with you. And not my computer.”

He seemed satisfied. 

The computer is fried, but the data is intact. The tech says he’s never seen anything like it. Clearly submerged in coffee, but retrievable information. 

Hello, metaphor for my life right now. 

Similarly drowning, but similarly available to recall the important stuff. 

Kind of nailing it, despite being a hot mess. 

23 thoughts on “On Close Calls and Near Misses

  1. OMG, this was one of your most perfect posts, right in my email exactly when I needed it! And yes, I think you nailed it on all fronts. :) Let’s get together soon,,,and Happy belated Birthday!!! xoxox

  2. I hope it didn’t take too much time to fix it, so that you can still get on and do ‘work’. I’ve done something similar, but at home, and with an external keyboard — it wasn’t as bad, of course. It’s still a heart stopping moment, but in the end, you’re right. Don’t shout, don’t get angry.. c’est la vie. Accept it.. Move on.. Take a bit of downtime, think, and adjust.

    • I’m already at the ” hey, I get a new computer out of this!” phase of acceptance.
      Sorry about your keyboard. I wish I could say I learned my lesson, but alas…

  3. There should be a word for that particular kind of feeling when a laptop breaks. A combination of panic and sadness. Padness?

    The day I came home from the hospital with our third son, the oldest son pulled over the coat rack on himself, and when my husband leaped up to rescue him, the laptop went crashing to the floor and sustained a crack to the screen that ruined it. That was a bad thing to have happen when I was already a hormonal, sleep-deprived mess. But at least it had nothing to do with employment. So glad you’re one of those rare people who actually backs everything up. Yay for you.

    • Oh, Kristin…I can imagine the fear for Charlie’s safety then for the laptop, then for the future with three boys breaking everything. ;-). Sadnic? Terrorpression?

  4. My oldest will be 3 in June and thankfully we haven’t had any mishaps yet. We’ve tried explaining to her about being “gentle” with the computer and ipad, but every now and then she needs reminding. I also have to remind myself that she’s only two and a half and understanding comes with age. I only hope that I have the same patience if that does ever happen!
    Great share, love your blog! :)

  5. I absolutely loved this post… I need to really focus more on not yelling at my child for everything … Life is SO short and I am finally realizing it. Thank you for posting this story of yours.’

  6. Terrifying! But congrats on keeping your cool and teaching your kiddo about how things aren’t as important as people. I hope I can be that awesome when my little dude grows up!

    • Hahaha! Perfect temperature, carefully crafted. Gone. You can rest assured that I took a nice sip of what was left before I mopped up what had spilled.

  7. Reminds me of the time I was pruning my palm, lost my balance, and fell into the pool. It was laughs all around until I realized by i-phone was in the pocket of my soaked jeans.
    Hey… splash happens.

  8. You handled that so well! I know my five year old is super clumsy but always so sweet after something has been accidentally destroyed but oooh sometimes it is just so hard to remain calm after destruction….especially when it happens and ruins perfectly cooled coffee!

  9. You handled that so well. Love how your toddler helped you to remember what’s important. I don’t imagine all mums would gain that insight from such a ‘hot mess’!

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