This One Time, at a Yearbook Conference
We had barely settled into our rooms for our high school trip to San Francisco when the fire alarms went off. Suddenly official-looking staff zoomed by in the hallway, and one of my classmates sniffed the air. Was it smoke? It was.
We all barreled into the stairwell, screeching as you do when excitement overrides actual fear. We started on the 21st floor, and from each floor streamed more high-school-age students. As we spiraled down, we got more silent, so we asked the others where they were from as we huffed down the stairs. Ohio. Nebraska. Us, New Mexico. We may have had to explain where that was to them.
Since New Mexico has a lack of meaningful skyscrapers in the state, our pace slowed as we realized how many stories high we were. Our spirits kept up until we expected to get propelled outdoors but ended up in the parking garage. There was some subdued fear when we called out to others: Did we know where an exit was?
It was a yearbook/journalism conference. Many of us hadn't left our home state before and had never been in a parking garage before. Finally, someone caught sight of the exit into the street, now lined with fire trucks to extinguish a kitchen fire we found out about later. Waves of budding journalists and keepers of our years posed in front of the trucks for photos until they were shooed away by disgruntled firefighters.
Hours later, I called my mom. "There was a fire," I said, "in the hotel, but it's fine. We're fine."
She told me later that she didn't quite believe me until we developed the pictures, and one showed us all bundled together, sweating from our descent, posing in front of the fire truck.
That's right, kids: I had to take pictures and not know what came out until I took the film to a Walgreens, and they processed the photos. They called you to tell you they were ready. You picked them up. You held your breath to see if you looked OK. (It was one of the appeals of being on the yearbook team: all the free film processing.)
The frantic stairwell trip bonded us together, but so did the late-night trip to film us surfing on a magic carpet in front of a green screen. (What can I say; San Francisco is strange.)
We also bonded through unstructured time working on the yearbook, making decisions on how to introduce different sections, or realizing that page designs weren't saved or that photos we thought would be perfect were not.
Our editors, however, didn't haze us as an initiation into the yearbook tribe. And when I and two other junior-year veterans became the editors, in our senior year, neither did we.
Our group went to Phoenix for the same conference. No hotel fire that time, but we bonded about how it seemed like downtown Phoenix seemed to shut down after 7 p.m. Then, at home, we bonded again through more layout snafus, excitement when pictures perfectly captured our year, and when we sold ads to bemused small business owners that took pity on the yearbook crew.
We could have wrapped the sophomores in extension cords and left them in the computer room overnight — or worse — to initiate them to our tribe. But our bonds came naturally, as they do with time, when there's a shared mission and when there are positive attitudes and actual leadership.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Cassie McClure's opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.