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A Cable Pissing on My Desk

Imagine my surprise Wednesday afternoon, when I woke up to a puddle in the middle of my desk. Knowing that I hadn’t spilled anything before going to bed, the first impulse was to look towards the ceiling, wondering if the water was somehow dripping from above. That wasn’t the case, and in fact it’d have been next to impossible in that spot, so I was at a loss until I noticed a small amount of water along my headphones cable as well. Following it, I then noticed more water around my network switch, so I rushed to unplug it and take it away, placing it on the floor while I dried the desk with a rag.
Since there were no other traces of water, it was obvious that the entry point was my Internet cable, so my assumption at that time was that it had somehow found a way through the hole in the wall, which I remember being filled with foam after the cable was pulled inside, and then ran along the short piece of cable before dripping on the desk when it reached the plug. The fact that I could see another drop forming just at the back of the plug seemed to confirm that, but when I ran my fingers along the cable itself I noticed that it was otherwise dry, and so was the wall around the hole. As such, I was left with only one other option, which proved to be the correct one: The water was actually coming from inside the cable.
What obviously happened was that the jacket had ended up torn somewhere along the way and, with the rain we’ve been getting these days, the water was getting underneath it and making its way out at the other end, through the back of the plug since there is some space there and it was therefore easier than to keep going forward through the plug, which is pressed tightly on the wires. This, the fact that these plugs have the contacts at the top, my desk apparently being slightly sloped towards me, and my headphones cable touching the switch and therefore providing a way for the water to go around the other items placed in front of it, which prevented the puddle around the switch from reaching its cooling vents, were the reasons why everything still worked. In other words, I was very lucky not to wake up to far worse problems than a wet desk! The greatest risk was for the switch, but a short there may have affected my computer as well, not to mention the possibility of having the water follow the headphones cable the other way and therefore reaching it directly.

Since I needed to keep the switch off the desk and preferably leaning backwards, so the drops won’t go towards it, at first I placed the new batteries I had bought for the camera underneath it, plus that I unplugged it again when I had to leave that evening. On top of water on my desk yet again, this also led to soaked batteries, since they’re not fully encased in plastic, the back being paper. As such, I needed to take them out at night and place them somewhere else to dry, hoping they’ll be quite fine in spite of this.
Though I unplugged the switch yet again when I went to bed, that still left me needing to figure out some other way to keep the water off the desk, since the piece of wire that goes inside my room is very short and can’t exactly be moved anywhere else. So I looked around, grabbed an old empty casserole from the kitchen and placed it where the switch usually sits, then took a set square from my desk and placed it on the casserole, then put the switch on top of that, ensuring that the water dripping from the back of the plug will end up in the casserole and stay safely away from the switch, my desk or anything else. Since the back of the switch was dangling above the casserole and the wires tended to pull it back and down, I also looked for things to place on top of it to make sure it won’t be going anywhere, ending up with a small notebook wrapped in two plastic bags, two CD cases, three packs of playing cards I apparently received with some magazines over the years, and two tiny books, one on physics and one on algebra, which I remember dad buying for me back when I went to high school. It looked weird, but it was efficient.
Yes, I have a picture of the casserole, taken before I emptied it after waking up the next day, and perhaps a better one taken today, showing roughly the amount that dripped through over the course of one day, minus any that had already evaporated, of course.

The next day dad went to the people from the network I’m in, who repeated what they had told him over the phone, that for them having water dripping from a cable is not unusual and the fix would be to simply slash the jacket a little, right in front of the wall, outside, so all the water will pour out through there and not make it inside the apartment anymore. When he insisted for another solution, they gave him an extension cord, so I was able to place the casserole, with the dripping cable dangling above it, on one side of my monitor, while the switch remained on the other, the two being connected by said cord. That obviously didn’t actually do anything about the problem, but it was a way to reduce the risks even further while I waited, as they said they’re terribly understaffed until next week and as far as they’re concerned this is not an emergency, so they refused to even have a look at the cable themselves at the time.
As such, after I kept saying I’d like to see how the cable looks myself, the actual solution came from dad and the building administrator, who went with him, and without me, on the building’s roof today. What they found was that, likely due to being exposed to the elements for the eight years since it’s been there, the shielding simply started to crumble off the cable in the spot where it goes over the edge of the roof and starts its way down towards the apartment. For a stretch of a few centimeters, the wires themselves could apparently be seen, thankfully still insulated individually but with all other shielding stripped off, so it probably wouldn’t have been too long until at least one would have been exposed, or even before the cable would have snapped completely. Worse, when he touched it in another spot as well, the jacket simply crumbled under his fingers. So the administrator suggested friction tape, and they wrapped the areas in question in it.

Though the casserole seems to have remained dry today, I couldn’t precisely say whether that completely solved the problem, since it hasn’t been raining heavily since then and, either way, there’s bound to still be at least a small amount of water under the jacket, which will still need to slowly make its way out even if no more will get in. Either way, even if it does work for the moment, I have no idea how long that’ll last. It does appear that at least a portion of the cable will need to be replaced soon enough, which makes me once again think about moving it, so it won’t be so exposed anymore, and so we won’t end up needing to do it quickly if and when we’ll be required to do so by the authorities.


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