The Cost Of Staying In The Suburbs Without A Car

Ben and I went to a Boston suburb this weekend for a college friend’s wedding and, ill accustomed as we are at this point to suburban life, we forgot how hard it would be to get around without our own transportation. We’ll figure it out! I thought as I booked us a random, though highly rated, local AirBnB ($202, total). There are trains and stuff in Boston, right? 

“Uh, I don’t know,” warned a knowledgeable friend to whom I confided these plans the day before we were to leave. “That’s commuter rail territory. Those trains don’t run all the time. They might not run on the weekend at all. And the cabs will be super expensive, like $45 at least.”

She was right, I discovered when I called up the coordinates on Google Maps. The local AirBnB, though within the same postal district, was nowhere near the local commuter rail train station or, for that matter, the wedding venue. But I didn’t have time to think about it; I had to make a mad dash to pick up the dress I was going to wear from a neighborhood friend (free! and since it’s machine washable I don’t have to pay for dry cleaning either).

Ben’s wedding prep, meanwhile, included a haircut ($50, including tip). He argues that this expense should perhaps not count towards the total since he needed a haircut anyway. I leave it to you to decide.

The next day I downloaded elaborate directions for taking the T to the bus to the AirBnB. Then we packed and, once my mom arrived to take over care of Babygirl, we set out on our journey. Here is what we spent:

Saturday

AMTRAK FOR 2, NYP –> BOS AND BACK AGAIN: $252

We lugged a large striped beach bag with us full of snacks that were intended to also serve as dinner but we bought one falafel from Chickpea in Penn Station to share because some splurging in life is necessary ($6.50). Together, the falafel and our provisions did their job: we did not succumb to Cafe Car temptation.

UBER FROM SOUTH STATION TO THE SUBURBS: $24

Here’s the thing about getting off a four-hour train ride in an unfamiliar city on a Saturday night with more luggage than any couple needs for a weekend, especially when the temperature in said city has dropped like a broken elevator and I’m shivering because even though we have over-packed we have neglected to bring anything long-sleeved: it makes me ethically flexible.

“Should we get a cab?” Ben asked as we shuffled towards the entrance to the T that would take us to the bus stop where a bus would take us, at last, to our destination.

“Uber,” I replied.

He looked at me. He knows how I feel about Uber. He also knows how I feel about being tired and cold and weighted down.

“Uber,” he agreed. Within minutes, it was done.

Sunday

Our AirBnB hostess provided a cold but abundant breakfast for all her guests (free). We ate our fill of yogurts and peanut butter in the morning as we examined our options. The wedding wasn’t until 5:00 PM. Should we get into the city somehow and do touristy things there?

“Let’s see what there is to do here,” I said. As it turned out, there was a lovely looking old park two miles away. Two miles is nothing! Think of all that peanut butter we’d just eaten! We set out on foot, stopping only for a diet coke for me ($1.75) once we finally found a gas station that was open. Turns out, stores in the suburbs are often closed on Sundays? Very disorienting.

After we made it to the park and wandered around admiring nature for a while, we were ready for lunch. We started walking back to our AirBnB along the highway and realized the odds of our stumbling across tasty, accessible food in time to keep us from getting hangry were slim.

“Uber,” said Ben.

I looked at him. I know how he feels about Uber. I also know how he feels about potentially not getting fed after walking all morning. “Okay,” I said, shrugging, and together we went whizzing down a slippery slope. In minutes, it was done. The Uber picked us up on the side of the highway.

“Do you not Uber much?” the driver asked after we got in.

We looked at each other, alarmed. What had given us away?

“You have a five-star rating,” he said. “Usually the only people who have five stars are people who just got the app.”

He dropped us off on Main Street downtown where the good restaurants and the other cute local stores are ($7). He did not tell us what rating he would give us.

YUMMY LUNCH FOR 2 THAT CAME WITH FREE POPCORN WHILE WE WATCHED THE US OPEN ON TV: $31

Then we wandered around for a bit and perused various interesting looking stores.

BOOKS PURCHASED FROM A SECONDHAND BOOKSTORE/COFFEE SHOP THAT SUPPORTS AND EMPLOYS LOCAL YOUTH: $8.50

SPUR OF THE MOMENT EYEBROW THREADING (Ben’s): $10 (including tip)

GUANABANA JUICE FROM A HAITIAN BODEGA (Ben’s): $1.75

We did not Uber back, though. Virtuously, with our purchases in hand and Ben smelling like aloe, we walked two miles along the highway (free). Then my wonderful college friend, her husband, and her mother all came over with a car. Here’s how that conversation went:

ME: Wouldn’t it be lovely if you all came here and got ready at our B&B? There’s plenty of room and we can pre-game and …

HER: You mean you’d like us to pick you up?

ME: Yes please.

Anyway, they came. They got ready at our place and drove us to — and later back from — the wedding (free). While at the reception, perhaps because I was already acting in such a wanton way with regard to my own morals, I had some of the BBQ brisket simply because it smelled delicious. I regret nothing.

Monday

More peanut butter for breakfast, though this time no yogurt (free).

UBER TO THE TRAIN STATION, DRIVEN BY A VOLUBLE AND CHEERFUL EX-COP WHO TOLD US STORIES OF STUPID CRIMINALS AND THE OCCASIONAL GRISLY MURDER SCENE: $20

DIET COKE FROM THE TRAIN STATION (mine): $2.25

LUNCH FOR 2 FROM THE TRAIN STATION: $21

Once back in New York City, heavily laden and sweaty, did we once again reach for Uber? No. We took the subway home. We are not, after all, barbarians. Plus I remembered with a bolt of guilt that it was Labor Day.

Last of all, we bought dinner for us, Babygirl, my mother, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend, to say thank you to them for helping to take care of Babygirl and freeing us up to go to this wedding in the first place: $54

TOTAL MILES WALKED: At least five

TOTAL NUMBER OF UBERS TAKEN: Three

TOTAL NUMBER OF BUS RIDES TAKEN: Zero. I wasn’t kidding about kind of hating buses.

TOTAL COST OF ATTENDING A WEDDING IN A DISTANT SUBURB WITHOUT A CAR: $691.75

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