Hotdoggers Michelle Norton and Julie Nocella both agree that they never expected to be driving a 27 foot-long, five-ton hot dog around the Midwest for a year after college.
The experience, they say, is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the complete America from a rare and sunny perspective.
In only two weeks’ time on the road, both can already recall encounters with people they feel they would have never met had they stayed at home. It is, in short, something to relish.
“There was a gentleman (at an event) today in his eighties that – you could tell from his weathered skin – had had quite a life,” Nocella said.
“He just leaned over and said ‘you know, I just have one thing you need to know, and that’s love yourself first, take care of yourself first, and the rest will follow,'” she added.
These solemn moments, however, are a rarity. The job is “buns of fun,” Norton said, but Nocella added that charity efforts and other serious events lend a feeling of self-worth.
“We had a day off on Wednesday and we had the opportunity to go to a children’s’ hospital,” Nocella said.
“We did weenie-aerobics. They’d make their buns, their hot dogs and their ketchup and all the toppings they wanted on it.”
“The frustrating part is knowing you can’t do more, seeing things like that and knowing that all you can do is give them a whistle,” she added.
“It’s heavier on the heart than going to a Meijer store.”
But having only been on the road for two weeks, the novelty still hasn’t worn off.
“A lot of cars have a sunroof, but we have a bun-roof,” Norton said. “The back is storage. A lot of people think we sleep back there, but it’s not a weenie-bago.”
The job, they say, was surprisingly difficult to get.
“About a thousand people applied, and it’s kind of cool to know we cut the mustard,” Norton said.
Hotdogger Advisor John Fagen, who was once a Hotdogger himself, said that Oscar Mayer by no means hires exclusively college students.
Fagen said while a background in journalism or communications is preferred, the main quality they look for in applicants is an outgoing personality that can handle the rigors of 24 hours a day, seven days a week public exposure.
“The wienermobile almost belongs to the public,” Fagen said. “It’s an American icon. … It brings out the kid in someone whether they’re six or 60.”
This exposure, Norton said, is one of the most difficult parts of the job.
“We get noticed. No longer can we go to the gas station and just fill up,” she said.
Norton and Nocella do not deny that there are problems related to the job such as being estranged from friends and family for long periods of time, but they also feel that this is preparing them for an uncertain future.
“What I’m most nervous about is what I’m going to do next,” Nocella said. “I don’t think I’m ready for a desk job.”
But whatever may come, the two are having a blast, and would not give up their “coast to coast weenie roast” across the “hot dog highways of America” for anything.