Packing For #RSAC and #BSidesSF 2013: An OCD Case Study

by Bill Brenner on February 22, 2013

I’m preparing to pack for five days in San Francisco, where I’ll be writing about goings on at RSA Conference 2013 and Security B-Sides. When you have OCD, packing a suitcase is as ritualistic as the compulsive hand washing you’ve heard about.

Mood music:

Before I had the OCD under control, packing was an all-day affair. I’d line up all my pants, shirts, socks, suit coats and accessories in order of the days I planned to wear them. I would undergo a similar ritual when gathering toothpaste, the razor, pills, etc. I would always pack extra for fear that I’d be without socks on the second-to-last day of the trip.

I still keep track of what I stuff into the suitcase to ensure I have enough for each day of the trip. But I only look over my cargo twice. It takes less time to do it that way than when I used to look things over five to 10 times.

Packing the laptop bag has gotten easier. I used to cram five notebooks and a handful of pens in there. Now it’s one pen and no notebooks. At this stage of my career, I’m pretty good at storing notes in my head. I don’t let it sit in my head for too long. I usually write up the talks and demos within 10 minutes of seeing them. Some talks, I write the story while I’m sitting there watching.

I also don’t stuff my pockets with cigars and cigarettes anymore. That allows for more room. There are the e-cigs, but they take up less space.

Some things will never change. I’ll always try to get to the airport three hours before the flight because I always worry about unexpected problems and want time to fix what needs fixing. People think that’s crazy and it probably is. This year I’m being a little more bold. I plan to get there exactly two hours before the flight, but that’s because a predicted snowstorm is forcing me to leave a day earlier than originally planned, which is making everything tighter.

Last year I walked around in my big, heavy boots. This year I’m being smart about it and going with the black leather moccasins that slip on and off effortlessly.

I’ll have a supply of Starbucks Via packets in case I can’t find my preferred coffee in the airport.

I’ll have my Kindle, which is lighter than the books I tend to pack. I’m leaving the extra rings and bracelets behind. I figure the less I take with me, the less there is to worry about.

Which brings me to the pills. One year I forgot to grab my Prozac bottle on the way out of the hotel and only realized my mistake after getting through the airport TSA line. Now I just pack the exact number of pills I need for the trip. The rest of the bottle stays home.

Now I’ll have the rest of the day to enjoy time with my family.

Repetitive OCD behavior is a time thief. You lose so much because of it.

I’m not totally free of it, but I’m fighting back.

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