I don’t know if I’m getting more careless in my old age or just having a bad run, but I have had several disasters in my office lately. And, by “disaster” I mean “massive drink spill on my desk.” The only positive note I can draw from this increase in disaster frequency is that I’ve gotten quite adept at dealing with it. So much so that I thought I would share my disaster recovery strategy.
- Scream obscenities really loudly. This is a critical first step as it will alleviate some of the initial panic and allow you to operate more rationally. It will also immediately bring in back up support. If you’re at the office, you can expect officemates and executive assistants to come running. If you’re at home, your entire family should have congregated at the door to your office.* I suggest something quick and clear like, “SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT! I need paper towels!!! SHIT SHIT SHIT!!!”
- Assess the situation. The NEXT most important step in this first phase is to quickly assess the temperature and stickiness of the liquid and the location of the spill. Personal safety comes first so if the liquid is hot and the spill includes not only important documents, but important body parts, sacrifice the documents and head to the ER. Assuming no body parts are involved and/or the liquid is at ambient temperature or lower, begin to assess the layout of the desk. Are electronic devices involved? What about important or irreplaceable documents or photographs? Make sure you know what you’re up against.
- Grab and strew. Before you can begin the recovery process, you have to clear the scene of all items. There’s no time for carefully removing stuff. Just start grabbing shit and throwing it all over your office. This will also help in a later step, as you’ll see.
- Sop it up. By now your primordial screams from Step 1 have summoned most of the office or household. If they know their role, they arrived with paper towels and possibly the Resolve Carpet Cleaner. If you assess the spill as having sticky qualities (e.g., Sierra Mist), you will need one of the 6 half-empty bottles of water from your credenza to deal with that issue.
- Assess the collateral damage. Having stopped the immediate emergency of liquid spreading all over your desk, it is time to assess the damage. If you properly executed Step 3, this will be easy as the documents and devices will be spread all over the office for easy access. What you are likely to find is that about 90% of the papers are worthless and this should be treated as an impromptu opportunity to clean your desk. When I spritzed coffee all over the desk at my home office this morning, I tossed almost every piece of paper I soaked (with humble apologies to everyone who handed me their business card at the medical device conference last week; if you want to stay in touch with me, um, maybe you better e-mail me first).
- Get a refill. As the old adage goes, you have to get back on the horse that threw you. There’s no need to shy away from having multiple vessels of various liquids, hot and cold, on your desk. Now that you know how to handle the Big Spill, just sit back and enjoy a nice cup of Joe. If you blast it all over your desk, you’ll now be ready!
*One cautionary note – your family will eventually start ignoring your screams for help. I think you can expect their support on, at most, one to two spills per annum.