Chances are you knew the words to the Oscar Mayer Wiener theme song growing up. Sure, everyone has wished they could be an Oscar Mayer Wiener, but would you want to drive one across the country for 12 months?
Well, that’s a job many would “relish.” And yes, using ridiculous puns is just one of the perks of this unique job.
Meet “Deli” Eliot Pattee and “Cookout” Kelly Goldthorpe, two members of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. These lucky “Hotdoggers,” as they’re officially called, are just two of 12 current drivers that have the opportunity to drive around the most recognizable vehicle in the country.
Pattee, a 2012 University of Wisconsin finance graduate, and Goldthorpe, a University of Missouri journalism graduate, have spent the past seven months on the road driving the Wienermobile for Oscar Mayer, promoting the brand by attending national fairs, festivals and events while working with local media.
“I got interested in the Hotdogger position a year ago when old Hotdoggers came on campus to recruit for the position,” Pattee said. “It’s kind of come full circle, now that I’m on my old campus to recruit new ones for next year.”
Pattee and Goldthorpe were two of the “lucky dogs” selected from over 1,200 applicants, most of whom are recent college graduates, making their position of driving an oversized hot dog on wheels one of the most coveted in the nation.
“Statistically speaking, it’s harder to get a job driving the Wienermobile than it is to get into Harvard,” Goldthorpe said. “It’s pretty tough. You’ve got to ‘cut the mustard’ and brush up on your hot dog history. There’s only 12 people per year, so more people have gone to space than driven the Wienermobile.”
The first step of the process for the two was going through the training process at “Hot Dog High” at the Oscar Meyer headquarters in Madison. There, the new hires are taught the ins and outs of their jobs, including how to drive the behemoth trademark vehicle.
With each of the six Hotdogger teams split up into various regions throughout the country, Pattee and Goldthorpe are actually just in the beginnings of their “wienerful” relationship. Each spent the first seven months of their job with another partner, with Pattee in the southeast and Goldthorpe in the southwest.
But the regions the drivers and brand promoters are tied to aren’t exactly binding. Pattee started off his job in Washington D.C., covering the nation’s largest barbecue competition and also got a chance to travel to SEC college football tailgates and an NFL game at the Georgia Dome. Goldthorpe got a chance to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Grand Canyon and she also went as far north as Boise, Idaho and as far east as Lubbock, Texas.
“The boundaries aren’t really definite. It’s wherever they need you,” Goldthorpe said.
Driving the Wienermobile also brings a requirement for generating smiles and, although the drivers claim to be trained to “drive and wave” at the same time, both have enjoyed their various interactions on the road while traveling from city to city.
“We’ve had people follow us for miles and miles because they want a wiener whistle,” Pattee said. “You don’t realize it until you pull over at a rest stop.”
“People just love the Wienermobile, kids are pressed up against the glass, people take pictures. The Wienermobile brings attention to us, people are always smiling and happy to see us,” Pattee added.
However, a life on the road has its downside. The friendship between drivers becomes like a family, not only because the Hotdoggers spend around 18 hours a day with each other, but also because the drivers only have a few weeks during their 12-month stint to spend with their families.
But the sacrifices are well worth it. One of the rewards is being able to put on their résumé that they are the 25th group ever to drive the Wienermobile. Some of these employees have even showed up for their job interviews driving the biggest bun on wheels.
After the two are done with their stints driving the Wienermobile, Goldthorpe will enroll in graduate school at the University of Georgia and Pattee is still unsure what his plans.
“There’s definitely going to be an adjustment period,” Goldthorpe said. “They do say that right when you finish it’s like you’re living somewhere, you have roots, you have to pay rent, you don’t have to wave when you’re driving [because] people are weirded out because they don’t know you.”
Will the Hotdoggers be able to turn off their ridiculous pun-filled dialogue?
“Probably not,” Goldthorpe said with a smile.