This past weekend I found myself spontaneously packing my bags and fleeing the hot and sticky aesthetic of Columbia. Okay sorry, you’re right, aesthetic is a strong word. We will go with armpit instead.
So, I fled the outrageously disgusting armpit of Columbia, South Carolina to none other than the beautifully crisp 75 & sunny city of San Francisco. Yes, you’re “Southern” girl (although my only claim to fitting in this category is that I was physically born as a Georgia Peach…in my heart I bleed city life and Rock N’ Roll classics)got to catch a break and fly out west. So surprise, to all you who believe that the only thing you are paying for in a sorority is friends and t-shirts…check again, you could also possibly come out of your pledge-ship winning a trip across the country if you start makin’ friends with the right people ;-).
(shoutout to my amazing friend Katie Hoofinagle who was kind enough to let me tag along on this adventure).
Anyways, so after buying a plane ticket and dropping the large amount of cash that all college kids have to spend on transportation across the country (Yes, I’m poor) I set off to fulfill the cliched dream from my middle school self of traveling to California with a group of girls whom I am so lucky to call my sisters;-). (Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants anyone?) The trip was all that I expected at first…excited long hour plane flights of chatting with the girls around me about the newest Fraternity crush;-), day one activities that surrounded the epitome of 20-year-old college girls trying not to look like tourists, and of course, an overindulgence of yummy west coast “organic” food (In-N-Out burgers and bread bowls filled to the rim with Clam Chowder definitely fit into this category…). So you could say that we were living the California lifestyle pretty unscathed thus far and feelin’ like Class A champs in terms of keeping our bank account withdrawals to a reasonable level so as not to get the well-known call from dad later that night.
Well, my Class A morale didn’t last too long, as I figured it wouldn’t, and quickly dropped straight to the bottom floor as your out-of-shape college girls who have an unlimited supply of Frosted Flakes cereal at the sorority house decided to be athletic and fill their adventurous spirits by taking a hike at Yosemite National Park. Yes, a National Park people…not your average Stone Mountain built in the city of Georgia. However, despite what you’re thinking right now…we did eventually make it to the top and burned off the frosted flakes, bread bowls, and In-N-Out shakes all in one. Except don’t miss the keyword here…EVENTUALLY.
Yes, our adventure started, stopped, and took a few more extra turns in the middle than expected. Okay, really just one big turn. Like a one hundred and eighty dollar turn…
It all started when “Photographer Jamie” annoyingly kicked into gear at the sight of the infamous Yosemite’s beautiful fall leaves and elongated trees. In the thrill of it all the music turned up, the windows rolled down, and the cameras began flashing in a desperate attempt to capture every single beautiful character that Mother Nature was throwing at us. A few snaps later an instinct that I will never be able to shake kicked in. An instinct developed years ago from my first ever photography teacher who helped me grow my own style of the art and who taught me the golden rule of how to get the shot that stands above them all:
Always have your camera attached to your hip, and never be afraid to use it in a way that people don’t expect.
So I did just that, and before I knew it I was out the sunroof. Yes, all realms of safety dismissed from my mind as I figured we couldn’t be moving too fast due to the National Park Speed Limit and the traffic that was slow moving on the one-way road. Twisting my camera strap around my arm a couple of times I dove my head out the roof in a courage of determination to fight off the wind and get the shot that was opening up in front of us. One of beautifully cut rock walls surrounded by fields of surprisingly beautiful dead grass, colorful leaves, all highlighted by the bright blue cloudless sky.
Yes, I know, you’re picturing it now just as I did when I went to make my escape. I was up there for no longer than 30 seconds before realizing that I just snapped a photo of a very conveniently placed Park Ranger who’s red & blue lights were now dancing behind our Charcoal Toyota Sienna. Yes, very very convenient.
Quickly descending back into my seat I began to register that we were actually getting pulled over in a National Park…and that it was undoubtedly 100% my fault, as you can imagine a tiny 5 feet girl in a bright coral athletic top looking as touristy as ever hanging out the window snapping pics on her obnoxious Nikon D3200 isn’t hard to miss…
Nope, all my imaginings were correct and I and my four other “sisters” were eventually met face-to-face with our not so new “best friend”-Park Ranger Rick. Like clarified earlier, I wasn’t a hard victim to miss and he picked me out faster than one who has been sticking their head out of a moving vehicles’ window would like…
The conversation that started with, “Can you explain to me why you were sticking your head out the sunroof of a moving vehicle?” was answered with a shameful raise of my carefully cradled Nikon and the despair of a group of sorority sisters sitting in a National Park with a cop car behind us. Unfortunately, the conversation didn’t last too mortifyingly long and a glimmer of hope began to rise in my mind (as it does most people who sit with a cop car behind them waiting in anticipation) that “wow! this has gotta be a joke, maybe I’ll get a warning this time…surely it’ll just be a warning…right?!”
Eventually, Park Ranger Rick leisurely strolled back to our car, generously handed a slip of paper to one of my sorority sisters to pass over to me, and pronounced that he had fined me with a $180 dollar citation fee with an explanation of, “I presume you weren’t wearing a seatbelt while sticking your head out of the window.”
No sir, I wasn’t.
So there I sat, there we sat, National Park and all, just 5 sorority girls and a staggering $180 fine. Of course, in the compromising optimistic spirit of Jamie Williamson, I quickly asked if a simple warning could be up for debate since surely the cost of a picture in a National Park wouldn’t be something to drain my bank account. However, he responded even faster with a solid no, and at that point, I knew that me, my bank account, and I were in trouble.
After giving me the proper instructions of how I could pay my fee efficiently and easily Park Ranger Rick walked back into his cop car and drove off, never to be seen again (until 5 hours later when he was writing up another individual during our departure home).
Luckily though, despite the $180 dollar citation that now sat in my lap, we hadn’t been kicked out of the Yosemite (that would indeed have been an even bigger turn to the story, as getting “kicked out of a National Park” isn’t a headline that’s hard to miss). So we decided to put the ticket away, keep up the optimistic spirit, and we packed up our stuff and spent the next 3 hours hiking the beautiful trails of Yosemite.
Eventually, we found ourselves back in the car, with plenty more pictures to tell of Mother Nature’s beautiful work (fortunately none that cost me $180), and tired and hungry as ever. Yet, in that tired and hungry state…a brilliant idea came to the mind of one of my friends as we climbed into the back of the Toyota and were reminded of our previous encounters just hours before. “Jamie, let’s take a picture of you hanging out the sunroof, holding your citation, and then create a GoFundMe for it and see how many donations you can get!”
Eventually, we decided that GoFundMe was maybe a little bit too extreme and decided to just post it in our Chi Omega “Sister Swap” Facebook Page. A few minutes later, the picture was snapped and before I knew it my friend Emma had written up a dramatically elaborate synopsis explaining what had happened and that if anyone had a heart that appreciated this story, they could venmo me @Jamie-Williamson-6 and give to help the “cause”.
Although I am not sure what cause there is for getting a citation for hanging out the sunroof of a car in a National Park, it worked. The “donations” began to roll in. Along with plenty of comments & replies showing true ChiO sisterhood;-) and that Girls really do Just Wanna Have Fun…
So, a couple hours and a couple days later the donations finally stopped rolling in…and as much as I would like to tell you that I raised 180 and beyond to cover this amazingly annoying citation, (because let’s be honest, that’s probably where you thought this story was going) I didn’t quite make the cut. But that’s okay…because there were 43 people out there who heard my cry, and decided to band together with me and raise a whopping $77 towards the power of hanging out of sunroofs in National Parks.
So here’s to those 43, and here’s to the $103 still owed to my dear friend Park Ranger Rick…may you forever continue to teach reckless college students how much their bank account depends on the importance of wearing a seatbelt.