Tag Archives: liminal period

Trojan Marching Band: Traditions on the Band Bus

Context: The Trojan Marching Band carries a level of prestige with it that entices many to follow it, meaning that the band’s appearances at USC’s sporting events are imperative. Informant CN states that the band hasn’t missed a football game in 32 years (more than 400 games!), and that creates an expectation for the band to appear. The band travels to away games primarily on a group of buses (this includes bus trips to Arizona, Cal Berkeley, Colorado, and Washington State, as well as a biennial flying trip to Notre Dame), and that leaves several hours of down time. CN described to me some of the traditions that band members use to occupy their time on the bus. 

Main Piece

  1. Name Jokes and Open Mic: For reference, the bathroom on the bus is known as “the Head,” which will serve as the basis for many traditions. For example, band members have an open mic where members go up to the front of the bus and use the PA system to tell a joke. They begin by tapping the microphone and saying “Is this thing on?” to which the rest of the bus responds “No!”. They then say “Once upon a time my name was [band name]!” and the bus asks “Why?” (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names). The member will then make a “Name Joke”, which are most puns involving the band member’s name and very often be inappropriate. The member will then say their main joke, which could be a roast of another member or a general joke they came up with. If the roast or joke hits particularly hard, the band members will chant “Holy Shit” as the joke-teller returns to their seat. If the roast or joke is deemed bad by the bus, they will instead chant “Head! Head! Head!” and the joke-teller must go to the back of the bus and sit on the toilet for a while. CN says that this is all in good fun, but that it’s still never a good feeling to be sent to the Head. 
  2. Rules: There are rules for the bus that every band member must know and that someone will recite at the start of every trip. They are exactly as follows:
    1. “Rule #1: Nobody, but nobody, including nobody, shits in the Head.”
    2. “Rule #2: You can get off the bus, you can get on the bus, but you can’t get off on the bus.”
    3. “Rule #3: Please refer to Rule #1.”
    4. “Rule #4: Fuck ___”

The first and third rules simply state the common sense rule that pooping in the bathroom is not a good idea, as it will stink up the entire bus. The second is another common sense rule to not do anything sexual on the bus. The fourth and final rule is a reference to ___, who CN says was a rude band member whose legacy reflected that. Normally, their name would be said, but for the purposes of privacy it has been anonymized. 

Thoughts: The Open Mic time seems like a good chance for freshmen to break into the band’s sense of humor and thus further initiate into the group (See Trojan Marching Band: Band Names; Band Camp Traditions). CN said that freshmen are commonly asked to make jokes during Open Mic, and this can help them through the liminal transition into the group. The rules seem like a joke, but they’re all common sense and the necessity of every member to know the rules makes it a somewhat unifying experience. 

High School Senior Pranks

Main Piece

My informant explains that her old high school has an age-old rival high school in the same city. She remembers that the graduating seniors of every year would perform a prank on the rival school, and the rival school would do the same. These pranks were usually harmless, but sometimes costly to recover from. She remembers that in her senior year of high school, a few seniors from her school dyed the rival school’s pool purple, which was her school’s colors. The rival school, looking for revenge, threw two queen-sized mattresses in her school’s pool, which absorbed a large amount of water, making it impossible to lift them out of the pool without a crane. She laughed as she recounted these memories to me.

Background

My informant is a college student studying Business. She was school spirited in high school and claims to have always participated in senior activities with her classmates. She explains that nobody she asked could remember how the rivalry between the two high schools started. However, according to my informant, it is not hard to draw conclusions. Both schools were located in the same small suburb of Los Angeles, ranked academically high, and held strong sports teams. She concludes that these factors may have caused, in her own words, this “friendly, but not-so-friendly” rivalry between the two high schools. She explains that in addition to the senior pranks, there would be one school day out of the entire academic year dedicated to pep rallies and parties to encourage the football team to beat the rival school later that day. She explains that these schools were rivals in every way, but her favorite part of the rivalry was the senior pranks.

Context

These senior pranks are performed by high school seniors. Faculty members knew about the pranks and were aware of the plans for the pranks, but never interfered with them unless they saw a safety issue or a health hazard that could possibly result from the pranks. Usually, these pranks were performed later in the year, when most seniors suffered from “senioritis” and would rather organize pranks than do any more schoolwork. 

My Thoughts

I attended the same high school as my informant, and can attest to the large-scale rivalry between these two high schools. The pranks that the seniors performed were generally creative and inventive, but the pranks were not as important as the act of organizing these pranks. Students came together after school to meticulously plan their pranks to perfection. This goes to show that the prank itself was not important. The value of this tradition came from the act of coming together. 

High school seniors are in a liminal period. They are transitioning from their identity as a student to their identity as an adult, whether they enter the workforce or go off to college. Senior pranks are a form of rite of passage. According to French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep, practical jokes and pranks such as senior pranks are performed during these liminal times to ease the tensions and anxieties that come with the transition. Thus, we can conclude that senior pranks were a way to smoothen the transition from student to adult for high school seniors. 

High School Senior Prank

Main Piece:

Me: So at your high school, senior year, some of the kids made a slip and slide?

J: Yeah… so basically, right by the cafeteria there’s this.. ramp? For some reason? And people would just (laughs) set up the slip and slide there and they got– I think they got like water, or maybe it was– no, I think it was water. And they just created this slip and slide and they all just went down it. And a lot of people recorded it on their snapchats but I did not partake, because I was a good student. And also, I did not run in those crowds, so I wouldn’t do something like that (laughs) so uh… I didn’t participate but I did see it happen. I think another thing people did was… I heard stories about people, like, setting like, baby chicks into the hallways (laughs) and letting them roam through the school, but I’m not even sure if that’s true. But I feel like I heard about that. 

Me: So the slip and slide thing, it wasn’t like a slip and slide that you could buy? People just set up water and went down the ramp?

J: No, I think they set up a tarp, or some sort of rubber or something– but then they ran– I don’t know if it was water or… it was some sort of liquid or some sort of substance and then they all like ran through– they all dived down the ramp (laughing). It was like all the popular kids at my school, like all the jocks and whatnot. 

Background:

My informant is a senior at USC as of the year 2021 and is from the same state as me (Iowa) in a city not too far from my hometown in the capital. He attended a public high school in a suburban neighborhood, where he witnessed this prank during his senior year. He expresses that he did not participate in the prank, as a certain “crowd” of students were the ones who initiated and participated in it. He explains that it was started by the “popular” kids at his school, who were mostly the student-athletes and other kids who were infamous throughout the school for pulling such pranks. He tells me that he recalls administrators bolting past him in the hallways, which he now realizes was in response to this prank. It is now a funny memory for him, though he was never one to participate in it.

Context:

This is a transcript of our conversation over zoom. My informant has been a mentor for me throughout the year, and this story came up during one of our bi-weekly meetings where we catch up with each other on life and school.

Thoughts:

I like this story because it is something that I never got to experience. Unfortunately, my senior year of high school was cut short due to the pandemic, so the opportunity for a senior prank was slim. However, it’s nice to hear others’ stories because these pranks are almost always humorous and can get outrageous. I also feel that this senior prank is a good example of the liminal period. Because high school seniors, in their last stretch of high school, are in the process of transitioning from one identity to another, they are caught in a state of being identity-less. They are not quite high school students anymore, but they also have not assumed the identity of a college student, or have started a professional career yet. Being identity-less can bring great freedom, but also feelings of tension and stress. Pranks are thus a vehicle for relieving this stress. Creating a slip and slide in the middle of a hallway in the school is a clear example of a prank that can alleviate the stress of this transition while enjoying the rebellious freedom of finishing high school. Further, I also find the dichotomy of the participants and the observers in this story interesting. Rather than being a prank that all seniors partook in, the prank was mostly controlled by a group of students that are stereotypically thought of as more powerful than other students. This may suggest that the freedom to rebel may not be something that all students feel they possess. Despite this, all of the seniors enjoyed the prank whether they participated in it or observed it. 

Forget it, it’s Chinatown

JH is a senior at a all-boys Catholic high school in La Canada Flintridge, CA. He lives with his parents in Pasadena, CA.

JH sat down to talk with me about a ritual he and his friends began practicing as early as middle school – taking the train to Chinatown in downtown LA after school.

“Some of my friends started going in eighth grade…our middle school was really close to a Metro station, and we could just say we were walking to my friend N’s house and just go there instead. Tickets were only like $1.50 each way and it only takes like, 15 minutes to get there. I only went once though I think…and we just walked around and looked at stuff, they had those little turtles and firecrackers and shit, I don’t even know if anyone bought anything.

“I went more with friends in high school though, like freshman and sophomore year a bit. We could still take the Metro after school and just told our parents we were staying after school to do homework in the library or had a club meeting or something. My friends would also buy cigarettes at these little smoke shops there, and there was like, always one that kept getting shut down or they kept changing the name…it would pretty much be a different woman every time, like ‘Kim’s’ or ‘Annie’s’ or something. And they wouldn’t ask for your ID or anything, my friends would just like buy whatever their friends bought, like red Marlboros or American Spirits and stuff. They had pieces too [for smoking weed] and bongs, so sometimes my friends would get the cheap glass pipes, they were like $10 each or something. I know some people would go through the markets where they had clothes and knock-off jade stuff, and there was this one little stall hidden behind clothes that sold a whole bunch of weapons. We mostly just went and looked but some people bought things, like ninja stars or big knives…people said these guys supplied the Chinese mafia, or something. One time someone said they saw a warhead…like the kind of thing you put on top of a missile. For awhile one of my friends had like a plywood board in his garage, and we’d take turns throwing the ninja stars at it.”

I asked JH why he thought Chinatown was so popular for younger high school kids, and what it said about their youth culture:

“I don’t know…I don’t know when they built the Metro, but I guess it was probably pretty new. And in like 8th grade, beginning of high school, no one can drive, but you kind of want to start going out and exploring…beyond Pasadena, outside of just your neighborhood and school and stuff. And then the Metro only really has a few stops that aren’t in totally random places, like yeah you could get on different lines and go to Hollywood and stuff but we only had a couple hours after school and going too far was probably too…intimidating or scary when we were only like, 14. And then obviously older kids were doing it and that’s where they were getting dumb things like cigarettes that they had at parties, and I guess we just wanted to see what they were getting into, and it just seemed really cool going to a kind of sketchy place and knowing we were breaking all these rules. Probably just like, typical teenage rebellion, sneaking behind your parents’ backs before we could drive and really start getting into trouble. Plus, in Pasadena I think we all know we’re super sheltered in this really well-off community, and everyone’s had pretty comfortable and safe lives…which I guess adds to the danger part.”

My analysis:

I think this type of ritual is typical among teenagers, especially younger ones, who are just starting to become independent and want to push the boundaries their parents have set so far. The ages of 13-16, 17 really define the liminal period in American culture, when kids start to feel more self-sufficient but aren’t ready to take on all the responsibilities of adulthood; parents struggle with the transition too, knowing they should start preparing older children to take care of themselves, without wanting to kick them out of the nest so fast. Kids toeing the line, and learning to take advantage of their parents is nothing new, and here we see them trying to navigate the larger (and more adult) world using public transportation, coming into contact with drugs and drug paraphernalia, and doing so with an air of secrecy and defiance.

Additionally, it starts to separate “cool” or “mature” kids from those who are happy to obey authority, and some feel pressured to challenge their parents instead of their peers. Sneaking out and experimenting with illicit activities (drinking, drugs, sex, etc.) is a large part of the American high school experience, and this ritual demonstrates one foray into that world.

Rajasthani Wedding Games for the Bride

Rajasthani Wedding Games and Pranks
1. After the wedding ceremony, the bride goes to her husband’s house where his family will put her intelligence, courage, strength and cooking experience to the test (in a friendly series of games). The exact tests to be performed vary by family, but some that Mayuri listed were:
– The bride enters the house only after kicking a rice-filled pot with her right foot (auspicious one).
– The ring game: a vat is filled with milk and small metallic objects (along with the wedding rings) are thrown in. The bride and groom must reach in together and try and fish out their rings with one hand. The one who does so first will have the upper hand in the marriage!
– The bride must try and hold as many of the gifts that her new family will deposit in her lap. Brides will often use their veils to wrap all her new family’s gifts and carry them around. She must carry as much as she can in her sari (test of her ingenuity and resourcefulness).
– The bride must also pick up every female member of her husband’s family. This is a test of her strength.
Later on, right before the wedding night, the bride and groom will be teased together (especially by the cousins) and pushed and shoved all the way to their highly decorated bedroom.

These rituals are done to ease the liminal period for the bride. Traditionally in India, the bride does not meet her husband or his family before the marriage and so these games are done to ease the transition from her old family home she’s lived in her whole life, to her new home with her husband and his family. In India, families live together and share the same house; therefore, the rituals and games involve the whole family. The bride is also going from an unmarried virgin to a married woman on the wedding night so it is important for the bride to feel comfortable with her husband.