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Kyle Cedermark, GRHS Class of 2000, was a Citizenship Award recipient at graduation (in what became a custom for the Cedermark brothers). Now a psychiatrist in Minnesota, Kyle often writes about his kids under his Facebook nom de plume, Karl Cheddarbrat.
October 1998: After months of exhaustive training, memorizing the rules of the road, and careful study as a passenger, my on-the-road experiences begin. For months, my father and I hustled over to the Opici Wine Importer’s wide-open parking lot for an intergenerational download of safe driving wisdom.
I learned to interact with the environment through my new two-ton body. I learned to precisely encode the differential between degrees of turn on the steering wheel versus change in vehicle course. We identified sightlines on the hood and navigated increasingly narrow corridors to build an accurate mental image of the dimensions of the vehicle. We practiced parallel parking, spare tire installation, and evasive maneuvers for the big day at the Paramus DMV.
February 10, 1999: After nightfall, on the day I passed my driver's test, these skills were put to the test. I was informed by my friends, Cutlass Sierra, Nissan Maxima, and Buick Park Avenue (names changed to protect identities) that I, Audi Eighty, was finally ready to join the world of living legends. We all departed from my girlfriend, Subaru Outback’s, house and set out on "The Circuit." After rounding left from Park Avenue onto Maple, I hooked right down Ackerman for the first event.
While others may have headily braced themselves and dived through the Left (!) side of the railroad underpass, I crept up slowly, assessed the conditions and quickly popped through. I spent a fraction of a second on the wrong side before returning to the Right, tachycardiac, sweaty and with the beginnings of stress-induced pit stink.
Next up was a cruise to the newly constructed chain pharmacy, CVS (Too Corporate! I’m a Rock Ridge Boy). The lights were out, and the coast was clear. I coasted across the sidewalk between a steel pylon and the automatic door with easily 12 inches of buffer on both sides. High fives all around!
With the hat trick nearly clinched, we confidently crossed town to Coleman School (Go Byrd!) for the final round. I crept along, as if planning a visit to a classmate’s (Nissan Pathfinder – do you remember her?) house. At the last second, I pulled a hard right off Spottswood, over the curb and onto the ballfields. By this time, the excitement had worn off. My anxiety level was intolerable, and I could visualize my future plans (respectable physician, future GR Mayor?) slipping away as GRPD leads me in cuffs to the holding pen. Something shifted. I ended up taking it slowly. We bounced along, lights off, with Rage Against the Machine blasting. We reached the basketball courts, then the parking lot, and finally the sweet salvation of Pinelynn Rd.
I signaled my right turn and ditched the mantle of swashbuckling automotive rogue. I felt sick as paranoia set in. I kept my eyes glued on the rearview until all my occupants were discharged and I had returned home to park on the street (Gasp!), on account of a full driveway.
It wasn’t until after I engaged in the nightly ritual of a call to 652-3800 to inform them of overnight parking that I could finally let my guard down — the dispatcher was none the wiser and hadn’t been tipped off to my escapades. It was the perfect, pointless crime and an entrée into a driving art that I was happy to leave behind. 🚘