The Portable Office: Travel Terrors

As we were putting together our Portable Office series, we asked readers to tell us about some of the worst things that have befallen them when they've hit the road with their Macs. Here are some of the worst of the worst.

Have you experienced worse? Tell us all about in the comments below.

Terror at 30,000 Feet

I was on a red-eye flight to the East Coast when nature called. I shut down my laptop and placed it in the seat pocket. On returning to my seat, I discovered it was missing. Surveying the surrounding area, I found a pre-teen boy nearby using my laptop. When I confronted the kid, his parent said the boy was bored and that I should share my computer with him. I refused and rang for the flight attendant, only to find out that she was the one who'd given the kid my laptop. They finally relented and I retrieved my laptop.

Lesson learned: Password-protect your laptop so strangers can't use it, even if they do get their hands on it.

--John VanNierop

I was flying Virgin America, with my MacBook Pro plugged into one their plentiful on-board power ports. I was happily computing away until midflight, when my laptop suddenly conked out. On investigation, I discovered that my power adapter had actually melted. I think it was a defective power adapter; some of the early MagSafes reportedly had heating problems. Virgin still offered to replace mine and gave me a free round-trip flight.

Lesson learned: When using your laptop on a plane, check the MagSafe cord every so often to make sure it's OK.

--Adam Dachis

A couple of years ago I was flying to Athens. I was enjoying the flight, getting some work done on my MacBook Pro, when an older woman (who had obviously availed herself of the in-flight beverage service) nearby became fascinated by my laptop. She tried to sit down beside me to get a closer look. A member of the crew shooed her away, but she kept coming back to ask about my "shiny silver computer."

The flight attendant promised her whatever she wanted from the drinks trolley if she'd go back to her seat. Surprisingly, the woman asked for sparkling water--but demanded it in a glass bottle. The flight attendant went off in search of it. Meanwhile, the woman was actually trying to grab my computer, saying, "It's so nice, I want one too."

Finally the flight attendant returned with the glass bottle of water. The woman lunged for it, staggered into the flight attendant, and swayed back and forth. The bottle shot out of her hand and crashed on to my poor MacBook Pro, creating a sizeable dent in the keyboard and surrounding frame. The laptop still worked fine; I used it for the four weeks of my trip without any problems. When I got home, I had it fixed and it was good as new.

Lesson learned: If you use aesthetically appealing notebooks in public, be prepared for unwanted interruptions.

--Simon Kahn

I frequently travel cross-country on Amtrak. On my last trip, I fell asleep with my MacBook on the pull-down table, the lid open so I could listen to my music. I awoke to find the guy in the forward seat had reclined his seat and squashed my MacBook, completely bending it out of shape.

For months after that, my Mac suffered from frequent crashes and overheating. After one Apple technician told me the problem was not covered by warranty, another replaced a part and told me to keep an eye on the heat using a temperature monitoring utility. Although my Mac still won't close quite straight, it has not crashed in many moons.

Lesson learned: If you might fall asleep on a train or plane, don't leave your MacBook open on the tray table.

--Laura Cornett

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