Notes From Liminal Spaces 1 | Car Dealership Waiting Rooms

Notes From Liminal Spaces 1 | Car Dealership Waiting Rooms
Photo by smallbox / Unsplash

Car dealership waiting rooms are their own special kind of hell…I mean, liminal space. Bad coffee, cheap snacks, yesterday’s physical newspaper, and a TV blaring whatever channel whoever last had the remote left on...

(Ed note: I cannot recommend this device highly enough for anyone who spends any amount of time in these types of shared spaces)

There are even liminal cliques in this liminal space. The porters, who I once overheard being called ‘lot jockeys,’ only come through in pairs or threesomes to get some of that crappy coffee. They chuckle at each other’s jokes while simultaneously scrolling through…something on their phones while they wait for their caffeine fix.

Then there are the sales folks. They generally either pass through on the way to the restrooms, or they lead in a prospect they just met—and in all likelihood will never see again—to wow them with the free coffee and snacks while they’re waiting on paperwork from ‘upstairs.’

Next up are the office workers from the mythical land of ‘upstairs.’ This clique is really two distinct sub-cliques: the money people and the support staff—and never the twain shall meet. They’re either rushing through for a quick cup, a refill of their water bottle, or again, the restrooms. Oh, and the support staff are almost always in pairs and quite often still have their phone headsets on, as if to highlight that they're only passing through.

Our last group of the day is the customers. These strangely shambolic creatures are the oddest, yet also the most fascinating to inhabit this transient space. More often than not, they’re entranced by their phone and not even looking at the seating area options.

They point their backsides in the general direction of the nearest seating surface and come in for a landing, hoping for the best since they never take their eyes off their screen.

Again, this clique has sub-cliques. First up, those who planned ahead and brought work with them.

In today’s work-from-anywhere culture, these can be difficult to differentiate from those who want you to think they’re working when in reality they’re scrolling Reddit. The laptops often have identical stickers, and as both groups tend to have headphones on unless you overhear them clearly on a work Zoom it’s a crapshoot.

And finally, we come to the tiniest subgroup of them all. The ones I feel privileged to even catch a fleeting glimpse of. These are the folks who are actively engaged with the world around them. Like the guy across the room from me as I write this.

No screen to distract.

No headphones to drown out.

Watching the show that is life.

I know that sounds trite, but it provides a welcome break from the constant stream of nonsense we’re constantly inundated with day in, day out.

You ever try just watching the world? Sure, some people will look at you funny, like the young guy who just looked up at the gentleman across the room with a quizzical look on his face, as if to say “how are you not bored?”

Ironically—or maybe unironically—it’s this young guy who seems bored as he’s switched between his phone and laptop screen roughly every 15 seconds since he sat down 30 minutes ago.

To clarify, I’m taking notes in a notebook as I write these thoughts down. I’ll type it up later when I get home. I find it much easier to watch the world with a pen in my hand than a screen in front of my face.

What makes this a liminal space, you ask? Liminal spaces are defined by the fleeting nature of our time spend there. By the fact that they’re neither here, nor there. This waiting room occupies a space in between our personal space in the form of the cars we all brought in for work of some sort (oil change in my case) and the public realm outside the front door, in the form of Leary Ave in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.

It’s not private—we’re sharing it with strangers—yet neither is it public, as you have to be a customer to use the facilities or drink the coffee. Liminality at its finest.