Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1999
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APRIL 1999




H E A L T H    A N D    M E D I C I N E

"Aiming High"
Author's Notebook
By Melissa Hendricks

Writing about dwarfism elicited a memory of an event I hadn't thought about for many years. This event occurred late one summer afternoon when I was 12 and my sister was 11. We were waiting in front of the Victory Supermarket in upstate New York while our mother completed what seemed like an interminable shopping trip. Restless and fidgety, we were just on the verge of an argument when, out of nowhere, appeared a vehicle shaped like a hot dog. It drove into the parking lot and rolled to a stop next to us. My sister gave me a quizzical look just as a porthole in the hot dog opened and a little man climbed out.

The little man, whom we probably then called a midget but would now refer to as a dwarf, wore a perky hat and colorful outfit that matched the logo of a brand of hot dogs. He gave us a tour of the hot dog mobile and recounted the places he had visited in his strange car.

I don't remember exactly what he said. The years have fogged my memory of this dream-like encounter. But I do remember the mood. It was bittersweet. The man was funny and charming, and patiently answered the curious questions of a couple of giggly, knobby-kneed girls. But beneath the whimsy, a sense of melancholy shades my memory. The man did not seem entirely happy. Did he like using his height as an advertisement? Did he tire of being the "hook" for catching would-be consumers of a wiener 12-pack?

Memories are subject to reinterpretation, and perhaps I'm now imposing my own middle-age views on my pre-teen recollections. Still, I wonder if, somewhere, itinerant little people are roving the country in hot dogs on wheels.