Liminality

Liminality is the idea of being on the threshold.  It is a place between places – a state of transition with a unique meaning in rituals.  In my trip, the shuttle rides were exemplary of liminal spaces.  My point of departure was my adopted home of Tufts, with which I have an intimate and fairly permanent relationship.  My destination of Harvard Square was also finite, with the stores having been long established – it was my purpose to go visit these stores.  So it was the shuttle rides that were liminal – on the threshold, temporary, neither here nor there.

Being in flux is a funny state.  Nobody wants to be there for the express purpose of being there.  Nobody really rides the bus aimlessly for the sole purpose of the ride.  It is always about putting someplace behind you and getting to somewhere you need to be.  It is interesting to see how people interact in the state of flux.

What am I when I travel on the shuttle – what is my identity and how do I act?  While on the Tufts campus I take on the identity of a student and behave as such.  While in Harvard I am there to shop, so I move with that purpose.  But what am I on the shuttle and what do I do?  For individuals riding alone, the answer is usually nothing: you have two choices – stare distantly out the window or stare at your phone.  If you are traveling with someone, you usually chat to pass the time, but often you see people riding in silence.  In reality, the girls planned to have their discussions about last night’s events over eggs and coffee, not on the unfamiliar bus.

In sum, the shuttles are a liminal place as they serve only the express purpose of transport.  People spend most of their time waiting to exit this state and get on to their original pursuit.  People are either actively or passively anti-social.  They wait for their turn in the liminal space to expire so that they can move on to where they wanted to be, in a place where they know their identity and what role they are expected to play.

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