Kerzman: The healing power of the Wienermobile
If you need something to turn around a lousy day or, like, shake your foundational assumptions about the nature of life itself, go check out the Wienermobile.
FARGO — There was a day back in 2002 that I’ll never forget.
It was a bad day. A real doozy. I was working three part-time jobs at the time while balancing a full class load, starting at 6 a.m. on weekdays and ending around 8 p.m., when it was typically time for reading and homework.
I’d ended this day at Tabula, the former on-campus coffee shop at the University of North Dakota, which was also a favorite place for me to do homework while hoping to get distracted. I was outside smoking and commiserating with a few acquaintances about how this lousy, no-good day had ground me into the dirt when one of them gestured to the east, down University Avenue.
“What the hell is that?”
I whipped around just in time to see the Wienermobile drive by.
The entire encounter, the car-that-is-also-a-hot-dog speeding past, was a matter of seconds, yet it lives vividly in my brain to this day. It was a bright beacon of weird delight on a day that seemed gray and dark.
At this point, if you need a little explanation about the Wienermobile, I’m happy to provide some. According to Wikipedia , the Wienermobile dates back to 1936, when the first one was built by the nephew of Oscar Mayer ( for whom some choose to name their bologna ) to promote his uncle’s eponymous company, traversing the country and spreading goodwill at community celebrations, store openings, charity events and the like.
Besides some design upgrades and new versions, the Wienermobile hasn’t changed much over time. It started as a red-and-yellow hot dog on wheels and it remains a red-and-yellow hot dog on wheels.
Today there are six Wienermobiles, each operated by a pair of college seniors graduating with a PR or marketing degree. You can track their upcoming appearances by using Oscar Mayer’s “Where’s That Wiener?” locator on their website. If you’re lucky enough to see it and talk to them, these “Hotdoggers” will gladly let you take photos and maybe give you some swag.
That stuff is interesting, but that's not what excites me. For what it’s worth, I’m a Cloverdale fan, although I do enjoy a Hebrew National or an Ambassador now and then.
What’s important here is that the Wienermobile is a car shaped like a hot dog, and that just doesn’t make sense.
It’s a record scratch on wheels, a wholesome abomination, just absurd enough to be fun without being ludicrous.
The effect of seeing the Wienermobile that day back in 2002 was significant, but subtle. I didn’t become less tired. I didn’t feel less overwhelmed. But I did have a laugh. As my head hit the pillow that night, I thought, "You know, today was a crappy day, but at least I saw a car shaped like a hot dog.”
There’s a certain joy to that. A relish, if you will.
And I’ve never, ever forgotten that experience. When an email went out to Forum reporters and editors that the Wienermobile was outside our building, I dropped everything and ran out there, giggling like a little kid, to get a photo. It goes to show you what an out-of-this-world experience might do for your mental health (and overall brand awareness).
The Wienermobile is in town through this weekend, slated to appear at West Fargo’s Pioneer Days on Saturday and Sunday. If you need something to turn around a lousy day or, like, shake your foundational assumptions about the nature of life itself, go check it out.