5 things the slightly paranoid person absolutely needs for the MBA convention

A little Ebola preparation goes a long way

HousingWire's location in Irving, Texas, a suburb tucked cheek by jowl next to Dallas, has inspired a range of Ebola reactions in our newsroom. All-out germaphobes who have taken the latest cases in our city as a warning to join the ranks of doomsday preppers are moderated by those who have decided that fate will take its course one way or another.

I'm in the middle somewhere, and so the thought of going to the Mortgage Bankers Association Annual Convention & Expo in Vegas is a little disconcerting, but not alarming enough to miss the most important conference of the year.

My editor at HousingWire, Jacob Gaffney, has listed his five must-haves for the MBA convention, but it fell a little short on the preparedness scale for me. Here's my must-have list for the conference, which will entail me riding in an airplane, using public transportation, hobnobbing with 4,000 of my closest friends from every part of the country, touching elevator buttons and breathing casino air.

1. Bleach-infused hand wipes

I couldn't find any wipes at the store that contain actual bleach, so I am going to make my own, since those anti-BACTERIAL wipes probably aren't going to affect a VIRUS. How much bleach should be used? The CDC website doesn't give specific guidance that I could find, so I turned to the online prepper community, which advised 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. I plan on soaking the ordinary wipes in that solution overnight and putting them right back in their little anti-bacterial packet. Nice!

I plan on wiping down the airplane armrests, the seatbelt, the tray table, the actual cloth seats, the remote in the hotel room, door handles, my cell phone and anything else I can think of. All those buttons on a video poker machine? I will probably pick one machine, wipe it and stay put for the 20 minutes it takes to lose $20.

2. Hand sanitizer

I trust Doctors Without Borders. Their experience with Ebola and their lack of an agenda outside of (rightfully) trying to bring attention to the suffering in West Africa gives them credibility. They say hand sanitizer is a good substitute if you're not in a place to wash your hands, so I'm bringing some. The only question now is how to use it after shaking someone's hand without offending them. Note to conference-goers — it's nothing personal!

3. Cold-Eeze

As an editor I look askance at products with names that are deliberately mispelled. But I've used this in the past for colds and it's worked, so I overlook it in this case. Will it help to curb Ebola? I have no idea. I'm not a scientist or doctor and my experience covering housing finance has left me ill-prepared to give medical advice. But here's what I found reassuring in their advertising: "Our unique zinc gluconate formula releases zinc ions to fight your cold virus." Did you catch the VIRUS part? I figure it couldn't hurt, and even if it doesn't fight Ebola I'll probably have less chance of catching the flu.

4. Some cheap rings and bangly bracelets

Apparently the average person touches their face 18 times an hour. Some studies have shown unconscious touching at up to 40 times an hour. Yuck! I'm a minimalist when it comes to jewelry, so wearing rings and jangly bracelets will help remind me every time I move my hands NOT TO TOUCH MY FACE. I don't know what the equivalent is for men, but feel free to leave comments if you have a good idea on this one. 

5. Plastic trash bags

No, I won't be wearing them like this woman, but I will be using them to separate out clothes once I wear them. Usually I would tuck them in that convenient little compartment in the front of my suitcase, but I am planning a trip soon after the conference and will be using the same suitcase. I'm perpetually cold on all airplane flights, so I am packing one light jacket for the way there, and one for the way back. Once off the plane, the possibly contaminated first jacket doesn't need to comingle with the rest of my clothes during the convention. Even before the potential threat of Ebola I would never use an airplane pillow or blanket, so that goes without saying. 

Not on my list? A face mask — potentially ineffective against the size of the Ebola virus according to some reports — and gloves, because it seems you will have to keep changing them or putting hand sanitizer on them just like your hands, so what's the point.

There you have it — the 5 items that will give me some peace of mind as I travel to report on the latest in compliance, the single-family rental market, mobile borrowers, a diverse workplace, and more. Taking a line from a classic TV series, "Let's be careful out there."

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