California resident Alicia Jessop had been dreaming for years about what it would be like to visit New England in the summertime. She'd never been to Maine and wanted to see the picturesque coastline and lighthouses.
So when the Pepperdine University sports law professor and Washington Post contributor wrapped up a recent conference in Vermont this week, she decided to seize the chance to hire a car and drive solo down the coast to see a friend in Connecticut.
But there was one particular thing she was on the hunt for.
"I wanted a lobster roll," she told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview Saturday, "because that's been a bucket list item of mine since I was a kid: to get a lobster roll in Maine."
When Jessop made a stop at Nubble Lighthouse on Friday, one of the state's most photographed attractions, there happened to be a lobster hut in the parking lot. So she decided to fork out $21.50 — it is a lobster roll, after all — and got in line with the other customers to buy one.
"I remember thinking, Wow, these people are really doing it wrong eating under these umbrellas when you can walk over to the lighthouse and enjoy the view and a lobster roll," she said. "So I took mine to go."
Making her way over to the view, she decided — "as a good millennial" — to take a photo.
"I was kind of like figuring out how to hold the lobster roll — Do I hold it long? Do I hide it wide? What angle should the lighthouse be in? — and then I just felt something move the lobster roll," she said.
"I didn't even see the seagull coming."
Yep, a seagull had flown in as if from nowhere and helped himself to her pricey sandwich — and, amazingly, Jessop had managed to take a photo at the exact moment of her misfortune.
"He flung my lobster everywhere," she said, "and then his friends swooped in and had a nice little meal."
Deciding that all she could do was laugh, she shared the pic on Twitter with a self-deprecating caption.
"I figured probably 10 of my followers would like it, and now my phone is blowing up literally every second," she told BuzzFeed News.
The picture soon went enormously viral and has since been liked and retweeted tens of thousands of times.
People were very impressed by the seagull's skills.
And others shared moments of similar gull thefts.
Some people mocked Jessop for trying to post yet another food photo on social media.
But others seemed grateful she had her camera out at just the right moment.
The local press in Maine had a particularly good time with the tale of a tourist in trouble.
Jessop said the massive response to the photo has been overwhelming, and she had to turn off her phone for a while so she could actually enjoy spending some time with her friend.
She believes the photo has spread so far because everyone can see the humor in the moment.
"If you look at the celebrities or influencers who have retweeted it, it really runs the gamut," she said. "You have conservative political commentators and liberal-leaning celebrities liking it, and I think it just gets down to something really basic: We all need a good laugh."
Good news: Jessop did eventually get to sample a lobster roll.
After deciding she wasn't going to let the birds bring her down, she hiked back to the shack and forked out another $21.50 and proceeded to chow down and enjoy that buttery lobster goodness.
She was half hoping the shop clerk would be shocked to see the photo and offer her a free roll or perhaps a discount on the second sandwich — "but she didn't even laugh or go, like, Oh my god, that's crazy, so they've probably seen it before."
Jessop told BuzzFeed News she has learned two lessons from the experience.
First: "Don't hold on to things too tightly because you never know when they can be swooped from you."
And second: "Go into everything with open expectations."
"As I was driving through New Hampshire, I literally was thinking to myself, What is this going to be like? Let's visualize this moment because you've been waiting your entire life for this lobster roll. What is it going to feel like when you're finally on the coast of Maine with it?
"Needless to say," she said, "I didn't envision this."