Published: June 23rd 2010June 23rd 2010
Walgreen's in Inglewood
I got to know this intersection very well.
I left Bozeman at about 2:45pm on Tuesday, and won't be back until Friday, August 6. It's the longest I've ever been away from home, and it's a little crazy that my first experiment with this is in a land as foreign as China. I enjoyed my 2 weeks there last summer, but 6 weeks is another matter. In that respect at least, this trip will serve as an indicator to whether I'd be able to handle moving there, which is my current plan for when I (one day) finish my alleged PhD.
The flight from Billings was pleasant enough. I got to the gate with about a half hour to go until boarding, and spent my time checking over my things one last time (as if I could change or un-forget anything now), and making a key to grade my exams. The flight itself was spent doing that grading, and talking to the girl next to me who lived in LA and was going to school in North Dakota. She was flying home to surprise her mom, after finishing summer classes early. The girl on the other side of me (yep, I was in the dreaded "middle of 3" seat) didn't say a single word to me (or anyone) the entire flight, even though we spent 2 hours with our elbows practically in each other's armpits.
We actually landed early, and I found my way out of the airport easily, and made it to the free shuttle that connects LAX with the city bus network. My plan was to take the 111 bus to connect with the 204, which would take me to Los Feliz, 5 or 6 blocks from my friend's place where I spent the night waiting for my connection to Hong Kong. I got on the bus just fine, but here's where it all went wrong.
I knew I was supposed to transfer at the corner of Florence and Vermont. For some reason, the former street dominated the latter in my memory, and I got out at the very first stop on Florence, where it intersects with La Brea. La Brea Ave is about 4 miles west of Vermont. Oops. This put me squarely in Inglewood, one of the sketchier areas of LA. I also realized I was out of singles and the bus only takes exact change for the $1.25 fare. I wandered into a nearby Walgreen's and bought a $.49 "W" brand lemon-lime soda, and pulled out my laptop, where I had handily saved a map of the LA bus routes.
From where I was, I could just take the 212 bus north, and it would take me all the way to Hollywood and Highland, about 3 miles from where I wanted to go. From there, I could either take one more bus, or call my friend I'm staying with, since she was on her way home from across town anyway (it would have been a bit far to drag her all the way to Inglewood, but Hollywood was doable). So, I sat down and waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. While I was waiting I saw 3 southbound buses go by and began to fear that the route had stopped for the night and these were the last buses, returning to the station at the south end.
From where I was I could see buses come up the street towards me, but then turn away on some other route, not being the bus I wanted. After this happened a few times I began to get paranoid that this bus had rerouted around the corner and I was waiting at an "old" stop. So I wandered down that way, and my suspicion seemed to be confirmed when, sure enough, a 212 bus pulled up to the stop down the block. It picked me up there....and promptly headed for the stop I had just waited 45 minutes at, in the dark, unfamiliar with the city, with my friend not answering her phone (I later found out the battery was nearly dead).
Finally around 11 I made it to HOLLYWOOD! and Highland (yes, the automated voice on the bus really said it that way) and walked as far as Wilcox before my friend picked me up and we went home. Today I think I'll take the designated airport bus, even though it costs over 5 times as much, and even though I'm pretty sure I can negotiate a simple bus transfer, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary. On the plus side, if this is the most serious transportation issue I have on this trip, it will be a new record.
I fly out at 3:15pm, land in Taipei 14 hours later for a 90 minute layover, and then take another 90 minute flight to Hong Kong, where I get in at 11:30pm local time. Fortunately I only have to take one bus on that side. See you all on the other side of the ocean.