After dancing dangerously close to telling Dragon Con to “get off my lawn” over the past few years I have turned a corner and am now finding joy in people who are new to the convention scene. If I had only one piece of advice to give to these people it would be “stay hydrated”. Adequate hydration is part of the formula for maintaining your body’s immune system, making it far less susceptible to illness and injury. My second piece of advice would be “don’t touch anything” from the following list.
Duh. Don’t get near them. People are the number one cause of disease among humans. Look it up. I am correct about this. Just stay away from them. They will only sneeze on you, attempt to lick you, or break your heart. Generally they will attempt to do all three in that order. People are as bad as they sound so get ready to hear an awful lot about them and the things they do in this article.
#25 Elevator Buttons
They’re round, they’re shiny, they light up when you push them, and they will take you back to your room so that you can change into your next costume. Guess what? Lots of people like to use these buttons. A whole lot. Records indicate that a single button in the west bank of elevators in the Marriott Marquis was pressed 832,729 times between 4pm and 5pm on Dragon Con Saturday last year. You name the pathogen, that button was crawling with it (and will again, in less than two days).
Just skip this one if you have a weak stomach. Humans use railings to steady themselves, typically when ascending or descending stairs. Some of these humans are “nerd humans”. Unlike Regular Humans, Nerd Humans often touch railings to dispose of Nerd Boogers. If you drag your hand along a railing at Dragon Con you are daring fate to slip a great big nerd booger onto your finger. And anybody that has ever encountered a nerd booger will assure you that they are much more difficult to get rid of than that plastic wrapping that saltine crackers come wrapped in; you know, that transparent stuff that clings to your hand as if it had been glued on. Note: escalator railings are automatic booger-removers, allowing the moving rubber railing to carry their squishy cargo to parts unknown (ie, your finger). If you discover a nerd booger on your finger find the nearest escalator!!
#23 Water Fountains
You really are trying to catch something, aren’t you?
#22 Paper Money
Entire sections of the Internet have been devoted to describing how filthy paper money actually is, so I shouldn’t have to write a single line of warning for this disease vector. But (classic line to follow) I’m a nice guy, so here goes: DON’T GO NEAR PAPER MONEY!! It has been handled by hobos and politicians, hookers and disc jockeys. They stick it up their noses and down their pants. It’s basically a celebrated type of paper towel.
#21 Credit Cards
Never let a vendor take your credit card out of your sight because they could be cloning it for sale on the Dark Web. Worse: they might just be touching it a whole lot. The latter should definitely be your biggest concern. Your credit rating is reparable over time, your immune system is not. If you are feeling so foolish as to hand your credit card to a stranger at con be sure to soak it in an alcohol bath and wipe it down with an anti-microbial napkin before throwing it out the window. Yes, the irony of a credit card warning following a paper money warning is not lost upon me. I want you to survive con on your wits alone.
#20 Ink Pens
Always carry your own ink pen. When your waiter brings you the check, simply waggle your personal pen in the air until you force them put their germ-infested pen back into their apron, right next to the drinking straws they plan on handing out to any ocean-hating guests in the next party. It’s important to realize that the ink pens waiters use are handled by the equivalent of the population of a moderately sized city over the course of a day.
Speaking of ink pens, please pay attention to how closely celebrities cling to the ink pens and Sharpies they use to scribble out their autographs down in Autograph Alley. These celebs know how nasty fans can be, and there are a lot more of us than there are of them. At some point one of us is going to manage physical contact, and over the course of the day there will be multiple contacts, which will build up over time until the celebrities are swarming with our fan cooties. Mix those fan cooties with their pre-existing Hollywood cooties and you’re talking about one infectiously charming disease vector. Look, but don’t touch the celebrities, even if it’s the Dr. Who dude in a dress.
#18 Door Handles
“NO DUH,” you say, but my advice includes your own hotel room door, you great dundering oaf. Did you wipe your hands the last time you used the restroom??? WELL???? Exactly. Let’s just assume that every door knob, push plate, pull handle or hatch lever you encounter is infested with fecal chloroform bacteria. Yes, I know that the proper term is “coliform”, but I have a extremely well formed mental image of a gang of tiny fecal felons (who look a lot like cat turds) wielding tiny, chloroform-soaked rags, ready to beat your immune system over the head with tiny blackjacks. YOU WILL BARF if you touch door handles.
Let’s face it, we all want an Ultrasaber. I mean, I sure do. And you’re going to want to wander around the Ultrasber booth and pick up each and every blade to feel its balance, feel its hum, and consider the subtle way the handle fits your hand. Are you Jedi? Are you Sith? Maybe you’re a Force-wielder? Whichever of these you turn out to be, you are still one nasty nerd who just answered the last question with an admission that you don’t wash your stinking hands!! The lightsabers in the Ultrasaber booth are practically brand new and are watched over by their boothies, occasionally being wiped down to beat back the con funk. But what happens if you run into a drunken Sith Queen outside of Fandangles who urges you to feel the heft of her saber? You, my friend, are going to catch her flipping cooties!!! This is how Con Crud works.
#16 Wizard Wands
Wizard wands are small wooden sticks that us nerds who can’t afford a lightsaber buy instead; basically a booby prize. People with wands pretend to be happy, but we know they’re small, they hardly light up at all, and they don’t make really cool whooshing noises. In fact, you have to come up with most of the sounds yourself and you have to learn Fake Latin!! So much work. Having said all of that, the same rules that we used for lightsabers will apply to wands: don’t go around touching strange wands!
#15 The Con Suite Hotdog
Stay away from Con Suite Hotdogs. Don’t touch ’em. Don’t even look at them – and by “them” I of course mean it because there was only ever one con suite hot dog. It is 27 years old, goes by the name Larry Jean, and identifies as a bratwurst even though I believe it was originally a beef frank. Whatever. Listen, if Dragon Con even has a con suite anymore that darned hot dog is probably still lurking in a corner, turning slowly on steel rollers, glistening sickly in the red-orange light of a warming element – just like it was doing when I last saw it in the Hyatt, back in 1991.
#14 Anything Inside a Restroom
Just use your elbows.
#13 Deadpool (any version)
Trust me. Heck, trust him. He’ll tell you the same thing. It’s for your own safety.
#12 That Abandoned Slice of Papa John’s Pizza
You know, the one over there on top of the wall over where everybody is smoking? The slice that has been there since Thursday night? The one that the pigeons won’t get near and that the homeless guy scowls and shouts at from across the street? That slice? Look away.
#11 Bellman’s Carts (luggage carts)
A lot of people touch the fancy bellman’s luggage carts over the course of the convention. On Wednesday and the first part of Thursday the risk of nastiness is fairly low, but by Friday you should avoid these rolling pathogen carriers like the plagues they transport (there is a reason bellhops wear gloves). If you see one of these on Monday morning move quickly to the other side of the lobby. Your best bet is to abandon your costumes and walk home along the train tracks. Not many people know that Atlanta’s convention hotels replace their entire stock of bellhop carts the week after Dragon Con.
#10 That Big Bowl of Dice
You’ve seen it. You may have even plunged your hands down into it. I’m talking about the giant bowl filled with multi-sided dice at one of the vendor’s stalls in the dealer’s room.
I’ll freely admit that I want to feel those little dice rattling along my arms as my hands dive deep into the bowl, but I know that 5 zillion nerds have done it before me, and that those nerds have been at Dragon Con. This is one of the bits of advice on my list that you will be sorely tempted to ignore, but please believe me: you need to resist. If you can’t help yourself, have someone wrap your arms in cellophane before driving you to the ER at Piedmont Hospital. Just write “Dragon Con Dice Arms” on the intake form. They’ll know what to do.
#9 Parade Hands
I can speak with authority on this one since I’ve been a participant in the Dragon Con parade for more than a decade (shoutout to Parade Director Jan Price and her crack team of nerd herders). As you march down the parade route you feel like an astronaut in a ticker tape parade. It’s a pretty gosh darn awesome feeling to have people who don’t even know you cheering for your poorly made cardboard stormtrooper costume that has been falling to pieces for ten years. So when you spot all those kids lined up along the curb, their faces filled with wonder, you may be tempted to run down along the line with your hand held out so you can give them all high-fives. This is the worst decision you could ever make. Don’t you know how germ-riddled children are?!? Conversely, if you are observing the parade and that character you love so much comes bounding up to give you a high five (or worse, a hug), it’s in your best interests to duck. Under no circumstances should you allow a parade entrant to touch you because they will give you instant con crud.
#8 Drinks from People You Don’t Know
One of the joys of a good party for drinkers is sharing your drink. This way you get to try all the flavors in the room. This one burns!! This one is spicy!! This one has orange juice in it!! It’s a whole lot of fun, especially if you’re drunk. However, there’s a hidden danger about sharing drinks with strangers at Dragon Con and I’m not just talking about roofies – I’m talking about something far older and much more viral – a little something I like to call “Infectious Mononucleosis“. A full third of people claiming to have contracted con crud are actually walking around suffering from this so-called Kissing Disease. It can leave you feeling fatigued, with a sore throat and fever. You might get a skin rash and things will begin to swell, like your lymph nodes, tonsils, and most alarmingly your spleen!!
#7 Tongues from People You Don’t Know
#6 Naughty Bits from People You Don’t Know
Listen, I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your body (other than not touching anything at Dragon Con) but what happens at Dragon Con may send you to an STD clinic so just make sure whatever you did was worth it. Try to take some pictures, and take care of yourself.
Yes, yes, we all miss the Marriott’s carpet pattern Bossa Nova 85, but we are stuck with Skidmark for the foreseeable future. Deal with it. The thing you don’t have to do is to get down on the ground and touch it. You don’t, in fact, need to touch the carpet in any of the convention hotels. I see a lot of people on the ground at con. Some are resting while waiting in line, while others are posing in their sexy Batwoman barely-there costume (send pics please). They’re playing card games and taking pictures. In fact, the more I think about it, a whole lot of people spend the convention down on their haunches or just sitting on the ground. Do you realize that all the bad stuff eventually falls down onto the ground? A lot of it comes out of people’s mouths or is tracked in on shoes. The last thing you want to touch is the stuff we walk on – I mean!! The ground is where anthrax lives, for gosh sakes!! You can love the pattern, but don’t touch the carpet.
#4 Complimentary Water Cups
The hotels often set out complimentary water dispensers with stacks of plastic water cups. I really like this because it encourages people to hydrate, which keeps them healthy. However, there is a point during the convention at which these little oases are ransacked and all that’s left in the dispenser is at best one cup of tepid water. Worse, there are 3 plastic cups left on the table. The first cup is turned up as if it may have been previously used and discarded. The second cup is turned down, like it’s never been used, but it also has the white haze of a crinkle in it, as if it has been squeezed too hard. The third cup looks safely unused. Which will you choose? There is no right answer.
#3 Hotel Television Remote Controls
When you’ve stayed out late partying with Klingons from Krios Prime you just want to stay in your room and nurse your hangover while watching the parade on Dragon Con TV. The problem with this is that you actually have to touch the remote control to the television in your room, and the crevices in remote controls have been shown to be a safe harbor for con crud. In 2015 a remote control from the Hyatt Regency was sent to the International Space Station, where 3 cosmonauts became violently ill while a guest traveler from the Democratic Republic of the Congo radioed the ground requesting goggles, a box of gears and a bowler hat. I would recommend that you use gloves (or a sock) to safely handle your in-room remote control.
You will see five kazillion cameras at Dragon Con. From the fancy DSLRs used by the official photography group The Guy Behind the Camera, to drones and Go Pros and gimbaled affairs like the DJ Osmo Mobile 2, down to the ubiquitous smartphone. You will be tempted to pull out your phone 500 times a day to snag priceless moments and amazing costumes, and that’s safe and fine. But at some point some clown in a costume is going to shove a smartphone into your hands and ask you to take picture of their group using their phone and I’m going to tell you right here and now that this is how you get con crud. If you notice giant crumbs in their phone’s speaker holes then you should just go ahead and lay down on the dirty, dirty carpet and yell for somebody to take you to the hospital (Piedmont code: Dragon Con Camera Fingers).
To paraphrase Kryten from Red Dwarf, “Now, I realize that, technically speaking, I’ve already mentioned People; but I thought it was such a big one, it was worth mentioning twice!!” – DON’T TOUCH PEOPLE!!! Also: Soylent Green.
One More Thing…
There’s one more thing you should never touch: cosplayers. Even if that sexy person agrees to pose with you they haven’t given you consent to cup their breasts or their butts (unless they literally tell you that “yes, you can touch me there”). Touching cosplayers inappropriately without consent won’t make you sick, it will simply indicate to people around you that you are pretty dumb and inconsiderate.
Everybody have a great Dragon Con!!!!!