Once Robert Proctor signs his license application, he is taken away by two men in white coats. It’s as if Robert has been tricked. Much of Theodore Thomas’s short story recounts a sensational car crash that involves Robert, his mom, and other motorists. The incident is violent and graphic. Robert fights with the steering wheel like he’s battling a real-life person. He also hears his mom’s piercing screams of distress.
Fortunately for Robert, the crash didn’t actually happen. It was a part of his driver’s test. To prepare drivers for the hazards of the road, the test overseers hypnotize the takers. They make them think they’re in a terrible crash in order to instill in them the importance of driving carefully.
Alas, this is a trick as well. They don’t hypnotize Robert so that he’ll drive with extra caution. They hypnotize him to see if he still wants to drive even after all that he’s been through. According to the test official, only a “sick” person would sign up to get a driver’s license after experiencing such a calamitous hypnotic state.
In a way, Robert has failed the test. By signing the application, he sent a signal that he’s down to engage in this dangerous activity. Before he’s dragged away, the man in the uniform tells him that he can try again later. This suggests that if Robert wants to pass the test and acquire a driver’s license, next time, he shouldn’t sign.