Miner Thoughts
My Mac Magazine #26, June ’97

These Macintosh machines are pretty durable little suckers, ain’t they? I say this from experience as you’re about to find out.

The other day I wanted to clean up my desktop (I’m talking my actual hardwood desktop). So in order to do a complete job of it, I moved my Performa 550 so I could get at all the dust bunnies, cigarette ashes, old ham and cheese sandwiches, spilled milk, spilled coffee and some green slimy pulsating substance that I haven’t identified yet which was growing under the machine. You know, the same ol’ stuff that collects underneath everybody’s computer.

I set the 550 on the floor behind me, (which just happened to be at the top of the stairway) and with dust cloth, vacuum cleaner, shovel and scraper, I commenced cleaning my work area.

Finished, I stepped back to admire what I had accomplished and my heel knocked over the 550, sending it bouncing and crashing down the 14 carpeted steps to the floor below. Jeeze, I hate it when it does that. But that wasn’t the first time my computer has taken a nose dive. I guess you could call me a klutz. I drop stuff, knock things over and otherwise have the grace of a bull in a china shop, or so my wife says. That’s why I’m so impressed with the durability of my Macintosh.

I went down the stairs to retrieve the Performa, and other than having a 4-inch crack in the monitor that matched very nicely with the 5-inch crack that was already there from a previous fall off my desk, it looked none the worse for wear. When I set it back on my desk, it still worked fine. Kind’a like a Timex watch that “takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’!” Tough machines, these Macs!

I think I did a real fine job cleaning up my work area. Especially getting to that green slimy pulsating goop before it ate all the way through the one inch oak desktop.

My wife wasn’t too pleased when she saw the 5-inch round and half inch deep crater the goop had eaten out of my desk. “Don’t sweat the small stuff honey, I’m sure they make wood grain Bondo,” I told her. “Besides, the computer will sit right over that spot; you won’t even see it.”

I must say though, my Performa is beginning to look a little ragged around the edges. Not that it bothers me, mind you. It’s just that ever since I set the damn thing on fire, it’s not as aesthetically pleasing to look at anymore. What with the plastic casing pretty well scorched and melted on the left side, it has turned into what the rest of my family calls, “Dad’s eyesore in the upstairs hallway”, whatever the hell that means!

The fire itself was no big deal, seeing how I was home at the time and was able to put the fire out before it did any real damage to the computer, or worse, burned the house down. I blame the power company for the fire but my wife says that’s ridiculous. She blames me and I can’t get her to change her mind. I’m sure you, Constant Reader, will take my side in this disagreement with my wife when I tell you how it happened.

During the second of our two major wind storms this past winter, we lost all power to the house for more than 26 hours. We weren’t really prepared for such a long outage because we never totally replenished our emergency power failure supplies, like flashlight batteries and such, from the first wind storm we had only a month earlier. I’ll forego the miserable’alities we were forced to endure during this lengthy power outage as I’m sure you’ve all been through them yourselves.

In a nutshell though, we only had one flashlight with working batteries and those batteries were pretty weak, so that flashlight was restricted to use for bathroom visits only. Our only other means of lighting were candles and, of course, daylight.

When the electricity finally came back on around midnight, I immediately got out of bed and went around turning off whatever had been on before the outage occurred. That done, I was returning to the bedroom and couldn’t resist starting up the ol’ Mac in the hallway to see how it fared the storm. Everything seemed fine, so I went ahead and logged on to check my e-mail. While I was doing this, the bedroom door opened and my wife handed me a candle she had been using to read by and asked me to blow it out in the hallway so she wouldn’t have to smell the fumes in the bedroom. “Sure honey,” I said. I took the candle from her and set it down next to the Mac while watching my e-mail download. I got lots of e-mail that night and stayed on the computer for the next half hour answering it. Finished, I shut down the Mac and went to bed.

You probably think I went to bed and left the candle burning, right? Well excuse me, but I’m not that stupid! Of course I blew the candle out. Nobody leaves a candle burning unattended; it isn’t a safe thing to do.

What I did however, was leave a cigarette burning in the ashtray next to my computer, and as far as I can tell, the breeze created when I closed the bedroom door blew several pieces of printing paper that were in the printer tray onto the ashtray.

I was all snuggled up in bed just about to drop off into dreamland when this godawful high pitched squeal sat me straight up. Before I even had time to think it, Carol was screaming, “SMOKE DETECTOR!”

I, myself, stayed calm, thinking it was a false alarm. I casually walked to the bedroom door and opened it.

“HOLY SMOKE, the computer’s on fire! I hate it when it does that!” I bellowed.

I watched, stunned for a few seconds, as my computer was transforming itself from medium rare to well done, right before my eyes.

Carol was behind me screaming, “What happened? What happened?”

I recovered from the shock quickly and reached into the bathroom, pulling a towel off the rack and threw it on the blazing Performa, patting it down and smothering the flames.

The Mac was still smoking but the fire was out when Carol came out of the bathroom brandishing a large tumbler of water and was about to throw it onto my computer. “Nooooo,” I screamed at her as I grabbed the glass. “Don’t you remember what happened to Barbara Bell’s Macintosh when it got wet?”, I asked. Apparently she didn’t remember because she looked at me and shrieked, “What the hell are you talking about?” Sorry Barbara, I guess Carol doesn’t read The Starting Line as religiously as I do!

After I silenced the smoke detector and made sure all the hot spots on the side of the Performa were cooled down, I started up the ol’ Mac to see what damage had been done, if any. None that I could tell, other than the superficial scars the fire and smoke had caused. It worked just like it always did, flawlessly. Well, almost! I did see a little smoke escaping from one of the cracks in the monitor and the desktop did look a little cloudy but that went away after a couple of days.

I told my wife I had things under control and that she could go back to bed. “Back to bed? How can I go back to bed when it smells like a toxic waste dump in there?”, she asked.

“Open the window,” I told her. “It’ll eventually clear out. You won’t even notice it once you fall asleep.”

My wife replied, “Are you out of your mind? I’m not sleeping in there and you won’t either unless you want to asphyxiate yourself and wake up dead!”

“It ain’t that bad”, I told her.

But once again my wife wouldn’t listen to me and spent the rest of that night downstairs on the couch. I slept in the bedroom with the window open, my last conscious thought before falling asleep being, “I wonder if I’ll wake up dead!”

I woke up the following morning with a killer headache from breathing the not-so-pleasant aroma of baked Performa but otherwise I was unscathed. I certainly didn’t wake up dead like my wife had predicted!

That day, after being reminded several times that, “You could have burned the whole house down last night, with us in it”, I was forced to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t my fault.

The way I figure it’s like this: If Puget Power (our electric company) would have installed underground utilities in our neighborhood, the windstorm wouldn’t have knocked all those trees onto the power lines, resulting in a blown-out transformer, thus depriving us of electricity. Had we not been without electricity for all those hours, I wouldn’t have been sitting in front of my Macintosh at midnight-thirty downloading my e-mail. Consequently, I wouldn’t have been smoking a cigarette at that time so neither would there have been a fire. Simple logic tells me that Puget Power almost burned my house down, not me! I don’t understand how any normal thinking person could see it any other way. Maybe I should sue Puget Power, or at the very least demand they replace my chicken-fried Performa. Maybe I will!

Besides the previously mentioned physical deformities of my Macintosh, I’m forced to use a keyboard that is somewhat crippled due to a little accident that happened while I was moving my printer from a shelf underneath my desk to a shelf right above the Performa. I thought I could move the StyleWriter without having to unplug it. I didn’t realize the power cord was so short. I didn’t have a very good grip on the printer and as I was reaching up to set it on the top shelf, the power cord reached its maximum length and the printer slipped from my grasp, crashing down and striking the keyboard with its corner. Wow! I wouldn’t have thought that little printer could have done so much damage if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

I now use a keyboard that is missing its original J, K, N, and M keys and half the space bar. I replaced the lettered keys with the four arrow keys that I don’t use very much and was pleased to see that they didn’t print little arrows on the screen when using the J, K, N & M keys. I suspected the computer would know the difference but wasn’t sure when I made the change. The keyboard works fine now and is only a mild inconvenience when my fingers get stuck down in the hole left by the removal of the arrow keys.

So here I sit in front of my not-so-good looking Macintosh, writing this little ditty, and although I have to squint my left eye and cock my head a little to the right in order to read certain areas of the window I’m typing in (because of the cracked screen), the machine still computes like it did when it was brand spanking new. Now I call that dependable!

I have to laugh at myself now as I think back to when my Performa was all shiny and new and I came home one day to find three bullet holes in its side. It turned out that some neighborhood kids were target shooting in the woods behind our place and apparently were using our bedroom window as their bullseye, which is in a direct line of sight with my Mac if the bedroom door is open. It was!

I dug out the three .22 caliber slugs from the inside of the Performa and was relieved to find they didn’t break or affect the operation of the computer. I remember being so upset that my shiny new Mac had three ugly bullet holes in it. But ya know what? I hardly even notice the holes now!


Pete Miner (pete@mymac.com)

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