Robot lawn mowers are about to destroy the U.S. economy.
If you think that sounds farfetched, consider a few facts:
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the third most common summer occupation among teen-age boys is ''groundskeeper or gardener,'' which is government-speak for ''lawn cutter.'' It's an American tradition.
Unfortunately, several companies are selling robot lawn mowers that can be programmed to trim grass automatically, using sensors to avoid flowers, pets and other objects.
If this product catches on, thousands of teen-age boys could be out of work, which in turn might disrupt sales of Christina Aguilera posters and Sega video games, which in turn could throw thousands of adults out of work and, ultimately, bring down the entire economy.
In other words, new jobs are needed -- and fast.
Fortunately, we've found several promising money-making opportunities for teens and displaced adults:
-- George W. Bush interpreter. If you can translate sentences such as, ''What's not fine is rarely is the question asked, are, is our children learning?'' into plain English, the Republican Party needs your services. You will accompany a major political candidate across the country, answering questions from reporters, meeting voters and occasionally debating Al Gore on national television. Competitive salary includes full health benefits and possible ambassadorship to Luxembourg after the election.
-- Los Alamos spy. Investigation of security lapses at top-secret government facility could lead to several vacancies on China's crack espionage team. Applicants should be at least 16 years old and possess basic knowledge of either nuclear-weapons technology or high school physics. Computer hacking ability preferred, but not necessary. Leave resume behind Xerox machine. You will be contacted.
-- Antitrust painters. In order to carry out the court-ordered division of Microsoft into two corporations, artists are needed to paint a large stripe down the middle of the company's headquarters, just like in old TV sitcoms.
-- Los Angeles Police Department evidence specialist trainee, Rampart Division. Experienced personnel are leaving the department to ''spend more time with my family'' and/or ''my defense attorney.'' Immediate openings available.
-- ''Democratic Survivor.'' A sequel to CBS' popular island survival show. In this version, several thousand delegates, concessionaires, maintenance workers and news media crews are stranded in a giant convention hall with Al Gore and a cast of shrill, politically correct speakers. The objective: to see who can endure the hardship the longest without going insane.
-- Standers-in-line. So many lines, so little time. Able bodies needed to fill in at supermarket checkout stands, ATMs, multiplex theaters and other crowded sites for harried adults who have better things to do with their time, such as sending e-mail, playing the stock market and watching ''Ally McBeal.''
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