From the Weenie Wagon to Here – or – WHO’S TO SAY?

12 Mar

I’m a planner. Always have been, always will be.

I’ve learned, especially in the most recent few years, that nothing but nothing goes as planned. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop making plans, its something to do, ya know?

It’s like the dreaded interview questions, “Where do you see yourself in 1/5/10 years?”

Any honest person’s answer should be,”How the hell should I know?” Or better yet, “WHO’S TO SAY?? HOW AM I TO KNOW??”

I yelled those words at the hubs a few weeks back and it’s caught on as my standard response to any question he asks.

“Do you think I should go to the Dr. or do you think this sinus infection will fix itself?”

“Are you going to thaw meat for dinner when you stop home at lunch?”


Works well too because even if I know the answer, chances are I’ll change my mind in 15 minutes anyway. That or he won’t remember my answer and will need to ask again in 15 minutes anyway. In either case, it’s my new standard response.

On my way to a work meeting last week, the truth of those phrases was so loud and clear it literally stopped me where I stood.

I work at my Alma Mater, good ole SIUE. I won’t say in what capacity, lest you try to stalk me. Suffice to say in a department that I very much enjoy being a part of and as unlikely as it would have seemed a year ago, seems only fitting now.

So, I was heading to a work meeting in one of the campus residence halls. It’s more familiar to me to walk in the front door but since I’m staff now I guess I’m supposed to go in the back door. Perhaps it was the fact that I entered through the back that left me unprepared for what I was about to face for the first time in 3+ years. The Weenie Wagon.

Oh yes, the Weenie Wagon.

Parked inside the lobby of a freshman res hall, it was an honest-to-goodness hotdog cart complete with giant metal wheels and a canopy. There were just enough metal bins (you know the type – matte finish metal, sits delicately atop a steaming bed of water to keep your food hot) to hold the hot dogs, nacho cheese and the awful, awful chili.

And please, don’t picture these as delicious looking ball park franks, rolling up and down on of those metal display things. These were unusually long, skinny mixed-meat dogs boiled in water and then kept warm in nearly boiling water. They were of a special gray hue. But they tasted alright.

Anyway. My memories are not those of a hungry college student who takes a break from studying and pops down to the res hall lobby for a quick snack.

No, mine are the memories of the hot dog cart lady. Or as I was technically know – Weenie Wagon Girl. Yes, my memories are more of being splashed with scalding, hot dog-scented water and the lovely sound of canned chili being dumped into a metal bin. *Shudders at the thought*

It was my first job at SIUE. And boy was I glad to get it! I also got a snazzy, food service issued t-shirt and ball cap to serve as my official Weenie Wagon Girl uniform. Each afternoon, I’d go over to food service where there would be three metal pins waiting from me: hot dogs in boiling water, cheese, chili.

I’d pick em up, always burning my fingers, and haul them to the loading dock where my sweet delivery truck was waiting for me. And by delivery truck, I mean electric-powered golf cart. (Which I mistakenly refered to as a ‘go cart’ for the first three weeks, leaving the hubs with his eyebrows raised about my new employment.)

I’d unplug my golf cart and off we’d go across the core of campus and to the res hall where I’d set up shop and then take a seat to await the hungry freshman.

Thursday afternoons were the worst. Parents would show up to retrieve their freshman and I’d try not to cry as I watched them walk out together. I wasn’t a freshman who could be easily picked up and whisked home. I was a junior and I had important Weenie related responsibilities that kept me on campus.

Word got around back in my home town. I started receiving gifts in the mail including a vintage photo of the Oscar Myer Wiener Mobile, an Oscar Myer Weenie Whistle and even one Oscar Myer Wiener Mobile Special Edition Matchbox Car.

I dealt the dogs for a solid month before I became thoroughly disgusted with the job. There I’d sit with my communications text books, studying my bum off to get some elusive real-world high-powered job where I would wear spiky heals and trim suits. That’s where I was heading, I was sure. And slinging canned chili didn’t seem like it fit on my career path.

So I went to my boss and demanded a more respectable position.

He promoted me to the other res hall. The one with sophomores. They had a “Cafe.” Said Cafe was a hole in the wall in which folks could order any number of frozen goods which I would then cook for them in the high-powered microwave.

Still, it was a step up and I met some awesome folks who taught me some hot dance moves while on the job, so all in all, a better gig. All the while, I pictured my future self – suit and heels – with some snazzy job in the city. I did not at any time picture myself as a permanent part of the SIUE team.

As it turns out, suits are only fun for a few days. Also they require ironing. And I like my high heels with my blue jeans. And I hated the job I had in the city.

So three years later, here I am, back on the very same campus helping run the very operation that I was not so long ago on the other end of.

When I walked up on that Weenie Wagon last week I was stunned. I could picture my former self sitting in that very corner, studying African-American Music and the Struggle for Freedom and Intro to Philosophy.

If you’d walked up to me, ordered a chili cheese dog, and told me that I’d be standing in the same place 3 years later, albeit in a better outfit, with a salary and benefits, I wouldn’t have believed you for an instant. But I suppose I’ve come full circle on this one.

You just never know. What is to be, will be. With or without your plans.

Or as I said earlier…



One Response to “From the Weenie Wagon to Here – or – WHO’S TO SAY?”

  1. Shannon | Confessions of a Loving Wife March 14, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    I loved the story you just told… I find there’s always some time of lesson to be learned in a full circle moments… they always seems to grant some type of incite or perspective.

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