Hungry for an internship? The Wienermobile has your back

Do you wish you were an Oscar Mayer wiener? Yes, there is a correct answer.

Maddy Reda, Contributing Writer

The UA campus has seen its fair share of characters and oddities over the years. Now students can count an enormous hot dog-shaped car among them. UA alum Zachary Chatham crossed it off of everybody’s bucket list when he arrived on campus in the iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile early last week.

The Wienermobile is a car like no other. First created in 1936 by Carl G. Mayer, the nephew of the original Oscar Mayer, the vehicle sports a hot dog shaped exterior that spans twenty-seven feet, the equivalent of sixty hot dogs in length.

“Hotdoggers,” the special drivers trained to operate the Wienermobile, are vetted through a highly-exclusive process. The post-grads who make it to the end get to drive the Wienermobile across the country for a year, representing Oscar Mayer and putting smiles on people’s faces at every stop along the way. 

Chatham, better known by his social media handle @zachncheesin, is one of the latest “Hotdoggers” to go through the The Oscar Mayer Hotdogger Program. 

Chatham graduated from the University in May 2020 with a degree in marketing and a minor in sales. 

“My great grandfather actually drove the Wienermobile in the ‘70s for Oscar Mayer, so I’m sort of a legacy hotdogger now,” Chatham said.

The creative, one-of-a-kind spirit of hotdogging is what led Chatham to the job. After all, having an opportunity to travel the world and bring a smile to people while you’re at it is one that very few would pass up.

“Essentially, I run my own PR firm on wheels. I am a content creator,” Chatham said. “As I drive across the country… we get interactions with fans and we create different kinds of content for social media channels.”

In only a few short months, Chatham’s opportunities have ranged from local and national TV appearances to a multitude of newspaper features.

“This year, we had the option to be on ‘Jimmy Fallon,’ ‘[Stephen] Colbert,’ ‘The Wall Street Journal,’ [and] ‘CNN,’” Chatham said. “Anything you can imagine, I’ve pretty much been able to be [a part of], which is a lot of fun.”

Taking on so many opportunities requires the hotdoggers to spend most of their one-year contract with Oscar Mayer driving cross-country. Hotdoggers have the extraordinary opportunity to explore cultures and national landmarks state by state.

“I’ve seen about 15 to 17 states in six months so far. It’s fun. It’s awesome,” Chatham said. “The best place that I’ve been this year was when I went out to Yellowstone National Park. That’s where I got engaged, [which was] actually the story that ended up on ‘Jimmy Fallon.’”

Chatham emphasized the importance of meeting all kinds of different people on the road. He also mentioned that the program is a great and authentic way to network.

“Just the people that you meet on the road, it’s incredible who knows who,” Chatham said. “You have no idea who you can meet; it is a unique thing to have on your resume for sure.”

However, far more goes into the job of a hotdogger than just sitting in the driver’s seat of the Wienermobile. 

“We also do event coordinating for the company, so we plan around 300 to 400 events a year; food truck festivals, farmer’s markets, [etc.],” Chatham said. “[It’s about] making people laugh as we drive across the country, obviously showcasing Oscar Mayer as a brand.”

The Wienermobile and its hotdoggers had to make the necessary adjustments in order to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic. Chatham went into detail as to how the program changed, clearly taking pride in how well his team has handled things.

“Before the pandemic, we were able to have the door open to let people come inside and give them rides [in the Wienermobile], but we just have to have the doors shut and be safe as possible since we’re travelling from state to state,” Chatham said, outlining a few pandemic changes. “We’ve been extremely safe and smart with what we’ve been doing.”

He admitted that while he never saw himself doing anything quite like this post-graduation, he doesn’t regret it for a second.

“It’s honestly been the adventure of a lifetime for me, and it’s opened up so many doors,” Chatham said.

Chatham expressed extreme gratitude towards Oscar Mayer for giving him the opportunity to travel the country, build his career, and to, most importantly, make connections with so many different kinds of people.

“The number one thing [I’ve learned] this year is, honestly, that everybody is way more alike than we realize. I’ve met people all over the place…at the stem of everything, everybody is so much more similar than we realize,” Chatham said.

The magic of the Wienermobile is that it continues to bring people together, even in the midst of a global pandemic. 

“The Wienermobile makes everybody turn into a kid,” Chatham said. “You can meet kids eight to 88, and they’ll still love the Wienermobile. Everybody just wants to put a smile on other people’s faces, and you can see it as you travel across the country.”

When asked what the most important ingredients were for a grade-A Hotdogger, Chatham simply said that “you need to have a college degree and an appetite for adventure.”

Follow Chatham’s hotdogging journeys on the road with the Wienermobile here.