The Healing Horse, Ch. 39, Scene 3: The Simulator

In the 1960s, schools used a simulator so students could practice reacting to situations they might encounter while driving. This was like a tiny car with a movie screen in front of it. The movie would show things like trucks pulling out in front of the car or a train suddenly roaring by. This sounds difficult, but it was actually a lot of fun. And it helped prepare me for the real thing. 

Too bad this one has already been sold. You could’ve bought it for your living room (just kidding).

[Image from]

Scene 3: The Simulator

It was now the warmest season of the year, when the sun blazed and children giggled, swam, and played, all while eating hot dogs and ice cream on a stick. It was the first Monday after school got out for the summer.

Her Driver’s Ed class would start this morning. Karen arrived early. Mama had signed the permission slip. Karen had it in her purse, not in her binder. Her binder was for ordinary school work. The precious permission slip belonged in safe keeping with her wallet and other valuables.

A large travel trailer converted for classroom use had been moved near the front entrance of the school, where the buses usually sat.

She took the front row center seat so she would not miss a word the teacher said and unfolded the permission slip so she would have it ready when he asked for it. A few minutes before eight, Mr. Dominguez arrived. He was going to teach the class personally. He complemented her on being early and then settled in behind the big desk in the front of the classroom. The other three students arrived promptly at eight and sat in a row beside her.

After he collected their permission slips, he gave each student a copy of the official California Driver’s Handbook and the California Vehicle Code Summary for them to study.

“Now, it’s time for one of you to try the driving simulator. Who wants to go first?”

She looked beside her at the other students. No one moved, so she followed her intuition and raised her strong right hand. “Me! Karen!”

Mr. Dominguez said, “I had a feeling it would be you, so let’s go to the simulator trailer. You other students can begin reading your driver’s manuals. I’ll be back as soon as I get Karen started.”

She followed Mr. Dominguez down the steps of the classroom trailer and back up more steps into the converted travel trailer that was next door and held the driving simulator. A smile quietly quivered on her lips. This trailer was a twenty-footer, not big enough for classrooms, but big enough for the simulator.

The simulator looked like one of the miniature cars on a Disneyland ride. It had a steering wheel, a gas pedal, a brake pedal, a turn signal lever, and a dashboard. The wheel also had a steering knob bolted to it at twelve o’clock, so she could steer using only her strong right hand. She worked it, the gas, and the brakes with her right foot and hand. For the turn signals, she learned to use her left hand. A movie screen in front of the car showed a film of driving situations, and she responded to them by using the controls. Again, her mouth curved into a smile.

Mr. Dominguez looked on as she practiced through frame after frame of the Driver’s Ed movie. She smiled back at him, when he smiled as she corrected herself whenever she went over a line or swerved too far. After he saw she was getting the hang of it, he went back to the classroom and left her to perfect her technique on her own. Kitten tilted her head with pride. She was blown away by her ability to acquire these driving techniques.

Original text ©2023 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *