Sometime shortly after I graduated college with a BFA in Theatre and no foreseeable job prospects I devised “the plan.” Instead of attempting to start a “career” as a “working actor” I’d apply to drive the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. An interim measure that would surely give me “life experience.” I’d be able to see the country. I’d earn a decent wage. Best of all, I’d be driving a physical embodiment of pop culture. Americana. My adoration for kitsch had no bounds so the idea seemed perfect. It would be, at the very least, a memorable adventure. I had given the scheme a title in my mind: The Lips and Assholes Across America Tour™.
I requested an application and did some research. The actual title of the position, should I get it, was “Hotdogger.” I’d be paired up with another “Hotdogger” and given a specific region of the country to cover, doling out Wienerwhistles while the gratingly perky theme song — “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener…” — lured young and old to us like veritable Pied Pipers of pork by-products. But before a Hotdogger is set loose on the highways and byways of America, they must attend “Hot Dog High” in Madison, Wisconsin. Besides learning the mechanics of piloting the unwieldy vehicle, it would also be a sort of indoctrination program into all things Oscar Mayer. Brand ambassadorship. How to give good press and pose for photos with the masses. Which was the duty of a Hotdogger. To represent at football games and grocery store openings. Main street parades. It was a position of, not exactly status, but there was a cache of sorts. Not that I envisioned Wienermobile groupies. Still, it was a hot dog-shaped pedestal on which to place myself.
The irony is that, growing up, I never ate hot dogs. I detested them as a kid. And as they were a staple of most children’s birthday parties, I either feigned that I wasn’t hungry or would accept the proffered dog, then find an opportune time to chuck it in the trash, subsisting on the bun and condiments alone. (Well, till the cake was cut and served.) But Oscar Mayer needn’t know that.
I beyond all reason wanted the position of Hotdogger. Skill-wise, I thought I was a sure thing. I had some education/outreach experience, I was personable and not afraid to speak in public. I met the listed qualifications. Dedication? Check. A big smile? From ear to ear. Great people skills? I can keep my misanthropy in check. A sense of humor? Wocka wocka. College degree? On paper.
It was a joke, of course. I would be little more than a corporate shill. But and yet, it was a joke I was in on. It also seemed to me an “idea.” It was Pop. And this was a time slightly before fleets of Red Bull Mini Coopers roamed the streets. Before omnipresent costumed street teams doled out sample after sample to passerby. Besides, just the retro-sleek design of the Wienermobile, it was like the flagship of an interstellar race of, what? Phallic invaders? I dunno. It seemed space age. It was Jetsonian. A sort of future/past.
The wait to see if I’d been selected was tortuous. Then finally an envelope arrived, the letterhead embossed with a cartoon illustration of the vehicle I’d focused my mental energy on up to this point. I was politely informed that I had not been selected for their elite cadre of brand representatives. I had not been accepted to Hot Dog High. I suppose I took it in stride, moved on to something else. Must have. It was not the first rejection letter I’d received, and certainly not the last. But it was the first post-collegiate one — the I’m putting all my eggs in this basket and I know it’ll pan out/ I only make a “Plan A”/ there are no back-ups to life/ choice. The first instance of “disappointment is a perpetual lesson.”
Who knows, I may have dodged a bullet. Later on, I did my fair share of marketing/promotion work. One time while handing out breath strips in the Bronx our vehicle was surrounded and we barely made it out in one piece in an incident I like to call “Spearmint Jesus.” But that is another story entirely.
Bonus cut: The pun-laden “Hotdogger Oath” (which, alas, I was never able to take)(Sniff):
As official Hotdogger of the celebrated Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, I salami swear to uphold the dogma set forth here, and I promise to:
Encourage wiener lovers nationwide to relish the delicacy, ketchup on the great taste of hot dogs, and give in to the craving once it’s mustard. Be frank and furthermore, to be upstanding in a line for hot dogs at ball parks, barbecues, buffets, and other bashes. Journey into the streets, dachs, und ports of my community, wish well to all comers, plump and lean — and leave them with a wiener to roast about. As once I wished I were, now I am — an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Hotdogger.