No trains, no problem?

I took a Lyft from Brooklyn to Philadelphia

4 minute read
How much is this going to cost? (Illustration by Hannah Kaplan for BSR.)
How much is this going to cost? (Illustration by Hannah Kaplan for BSR.)

It was one of the best Jonathan Coulton concerts I’d ever been to, well worth traveling from Philadelphia to Brooklyn to experience. The show started at 7:30pm and I had a reservation to return to Philadelphia on the 11:15pm train. Plenty of time, right?

It wasn’t.

The encore dilemma

At 10:30pm, Coulton hadn’t even begun playing encores. I realized that I’d have to duck out early if I didn’t want to miss my train.

But how could I leave? I was having too much fun. When the show ended, just after 11pm, I phoned Amtrak. “I'm booked on the 11:15 to Philly," I told the ticket agent, “but I'm not going to make it. Can you put me on the next train to Philadelphia?”

"Of course," she said. "But it will cost an extra $80."

“No problem.” Staying to the end of that great concert was worth it.

"And… the next train to Philadelphia doesn’t leave until 4 o’clock tomorrow morning."


Midnight fans

The upside was that, since I had plenty of time to kill, I hung around with the rest of Coulton’s diehard fans in the hope that he’d come out and chat with us, which he did. We enjoyed a great conversation with our favorite nerd-rock superstar, after which the other fans all said goodbye and went home to their nice, warm beds.

And left me standing out on a street in Brooklyn at midnight with a reservation on a train that wasn't going to leave for hours.

What was Penn Station even like in the middle of the night?

Guess I’d find out.

Why wait?

I called a Lyft. When my driver, George, turned up, I told him that I needed to go to Penn Station, where I’d be cooling my heels for four hours while I waited for my train.

"That sounds awful,” he said. "Why don't you just let me drive you to Philadelphia?"

"Can you even do that?" I asked.

"Sure," he said.

"What would it cost?"

"I don’t know," he said.

So I asked the Internet via my phone: "What does it cost to take a Lyft from Brooklyn to Philadelphia?"

The Internet suggested that it would probably cost somewhere between $200 and $250.

Was this reliable information? I had no idea. But the money I'd get back if I cancelled my Amtrak ticket would help pay for it. And the idea of getting home in a couple of hours and sleeping in my own bed instead of being up all night was very tempting.

Still — taking a Lyft from Brooklyn to Philadelphia? Who does something like that?

Me, apparently. Because, still loving life after that wonderful concert, I decided to go for it.

Jonathan Coulton is worth the ride. (Photo by Vivan Jayant, via Wikimedia Commons.)
Jonathan Coulton is worth the ride. (Photo by Vivan Jayant, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Buy now, pay later

It had been a great evening so far. Surely it would stay that way. I told Lyft that I was changing my destination and entered my home address. And off we went!

What I immediately learned was that when you change your destination mid-trip, Lyft doesn’t tell you what your new destination is going to cost.

It would be a surprise.

I fretted about this for a moment, then decided that since I had committed to the trip, I may as well stop worrying that the cost was going to bankrupt me and enjoy the ride.

It was easy to enjoy. Driving down the turnpike in the back seat of that large comfy car, I felt like a big shot. Rock stars and celebrities travel like this, not library workers like me.

I happily cancelled my Amtrak reservation, then had fun texting my West Coast friends, who were still awake: "You'll never guess what I'm doing."

"What does that cost?" was the first thing everyone asked when I’d told them that I was in a Lyft on its way from Brooklyn to Philadelphia.

"I'm guessing that it's going to cost a lot," I told them. "But it sure beats hanging around a train station all night. And I was having too much fun at the concert to leave.”

"I like the way you live," said one, and I felt very pleased with myself.

It was a clear night without much traffic. As we cruised along, I was content. This was much better than hanging out in a train station. Not to mention boarding a train at four in the morning, then struggling to keep my eyes open so I wouldn’t fall asleep and wake up in Baltimore.

The ride was magical — one moment I was chatting with my favorite singer/songwriter; the next I was being delivered safely to my door.

Moment of truth

After George dropped me off and drove away, the price finally appeared on my phone: $310.

I had just spent $310 to get back from a concert that had cost only $25. (And that was before I added the tip.) It was probably just as well that I hadn't known the cost up front. I probably wouldn’t have done it.

But as I fell asleep between clean sheets just moments later, I had no regrets about squandering some hard-earned money on my oddball joyride home.

I might even do it again.

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