Crackers! #4: Sam Riley


Welcome to our very merry, end-of-year series, Crackers!

We’ve asked eight of our favourite writers to tell us about the best gift that 2015 gave them/the world, and we’ll be posting their responses all the way through to New Year’s Eve. Today’s cracker comes from Sam Riley. Happy reading.

Driving a car is terrifying. Having a driver’s license, however, is fine. I love that we all have our pictures and weights emblazoned on laminated cards that we carry on our person at all times. I’m glad to have a reminder of how I looked one day, ten years ago, under fluorescent lighting. When self-driving cars take over the planet and DMVs are gutted and converted into Pilates studios, I hope our Google overlords keep the driver’s license tradition alive.

The state of California said it was legal for me to drive, which is a terrible shortcoming of local government.

The state of California said it was legal for me to drive, which is a terrible shortcoming of local government. I never tested out my legal driving abilities. Years and years of ride-mooching had allowed me to avoid driving myself anywhere, like a powerful person who makes enough money to accommodate their phobias. My tactic was simple. At the end of the night when everyone’s leaving the party, I’d walk by the friend who happens to have a car and say something like, “I wanted to say goodbye. I’m about to walk home in the dark, in this major metropolitan area. If anything happens, I want you to be the one to tell my story.” Then, they’d get scared because they don’t know my story well enough to be tasked with perpetuating my legend. And then it’s just seat warmers and Top 40 hits on the radio from then on.

But this only works for so long. Finally, during a road trip across the United States this past summer, I had to pitch in. Anyone who is able to consciously speed down highway at 70 miles per hour, among strangers, is insane. The only animate beings that understand the reality-shattering experience of being in a speeding vehicle are dogs – not the jaded ones. I tried highway-driving in Nevada, outside of Las Vegas. Every single moment I had this thought: I need to stop this car wait what if I can’t stop this car oh my god how do you turn. I was overly aware, unable to succumb to the baseline oblivion one needs to go 70 mph. I had to exit the highway after ten minutes because I was “going too slow” and was “unwilling to stop going so slow.” I allowed my boyfriend to take the wheel instead of murdering us both on the highway, which was really nice of me. It wasn’t until Utah that I felt ashamed enough to try again.

It wasn’t until Utah that I felt ashamed enough to try again.

I found Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill CD in the glove compartment. There is nothing like the emotional outpourings of a Canadian teenager to remove a state of hyper self-awareness. I had one hand in my pocket and the other was operating a motor vehicle. Alanis has been around since the nineties and Utah was founded in 1896 (also, the nineties)—but it was 2015 that brought these together for me. Something about the Utah’s calming topography and Alanis’ pop yodelling put my driving fears to rest—at least temporarily, because I’ve only driven once or twice since then. Maybe all of our fears can be cured by random combos of circumstances that we don’t about yet. Is that the butterfly effect? And now that I’ve moved to New York, I can wait at least another decade before having to consider driving again. Thank you, 2015.

Sam Riley is a budding humourist for hire based in San Francisco. She’s a contributor to The Portlandia Activity Book (McSweeney’s) and will start tweeting (@samsatoni) any day now.