The thing about going car-free is that you have to figure out how to use transit to get to the places that matter to you - especially if they are the places that can help you make your modest graduate student stipends go a little further than they would here in Westwood. One such destination for me and my friend Sarah is the 99-Cents Only store.
Sarah has basically been in love with the 99-cents only store chain since she moved to Weyburn Terrace last month. She had been complaining about the exorbitant cost of basic household necessities, such as detergent and sponges, at the drug stores in Westwood when I told her about the magic that is the 99-cents only store. The 99-Cents Only store is not your ordinary dollar store; it is a chain with considerable buying and negotiating power, so the goods in their store are generally of good quality. Every now and then, you find a gem: for me, it was magnets leftover from N'Sync's touring days. For Sarah, it was the ability to buy 3 sponges for a dollar (versus $2 a sponge in Westwood).
Admittedly, the nearest 99-cents store is in Culver City. I don't even know how to get there in a car. But sometimes, transit accessibility matters far more than geographic proximity. In this case, there are not one but two 99-cents only stores near the corner of Wilshire & Fairfax. Wilshire is an important transit corridor in Los Angeles and near UCLA with frequent bus service. Plus Sarah wanted to go to LACMA, also located by Wilshire & Fairfax, so taking the 720 to Wilshire & Fairfax on a Saturday morning was a no-brainer.
That day was a good day for transit, as Sarah and I caught the same bus we spotted when we reached Wilshire & Gayley. (Usually, that same bus would have blown past the stop while I stood at the corner of Wilshire & Westwood, leaving me to curse the long traffic signal cycles at that intersection.) Sarah's UCLA Transportation-subsidized TAP pass just arrived, so she used it for the first time with no problem. The bus was reasonably clean, the ride only moderately jarring, and we got to our destination in under 20 minutes.
On the way back, our 720 bus got into a bit of a derby with another 720 bus. (Bus bunching, regrettably, happens all of the time.) Meanwhile, Sarah and I listened to the banter between two older men. They bantered about going to UCLA in the 70s and about LA back in the good old days.
In closing, that transit journey deserves a check plus. The bus was prompt and relatively clean; additionally, we learned a bit from the conversations we listened in on (bad, I know, but that's when you learn!).