There's a depressing new report making the rounds today which says that almost half of American teenagers looking for work this summer will either not get enough hours or won't get a job at all. So that is a bad indicator of our economic times, for sure. People who want work not being able to find work is no laughing matter. But in the spirit of optimism, let's turn lemons into lemonade stands: If no one will give teenagers jobs, they can make jobs for themselves. Here are some suggestions.
Become a professional gizmo explainer. If you're like us, you spend a lot of time showing your parents how to use whatever new device they thought they should buy but really have no use for. You know, elaborate digital cameras and confusing touch-screen iPods and the like. It's frustrating work, because all you really want to do when you're at home is sprawl out on the couch and eat your parents' groceries. But imagine if you were getting paid! Make a flyer offering your expert young person explaining services and go slap that puppy up on the bulletin board at the retirement estates or whatever other old people mecca exists in your area. Then they can pay you to explain things like "Press this button to turn the thing on" and "No, no, no one can 'see' you on the internet." Obviously they'll still have to rely on the weary guys and gals at the Geek Squad or whatever to fix the bigger problems, but for a simple tutorial ("How do I get this thing to play CDs??"), there you'll be. Sure it's a summer spent with old people, but you'll be making money while also doing a kindness. Maybe you could even call it community service and put it on your college applications. Sure beats doing real community service.
Open a taxi service. Presumably, imagined teenager, you have friends, yes? And some of those friends, and some acquaintances too, have younger siblings who are also out of school for the summer? And they may occasionally need rides places while their parents are at work? Well here you come to the rescue. This plan is contingent on you having both a license and a car, and probably on your parents not finding out that you're out all day giving strange kids rides places, but if those stars align, it might not be a bad gig. Basically you'd get a text and then go over to Jayden or Madison or whoever the hell else's house and take them to the mall or the public pool or wherever those sad little eighth graders are choosing to spend their time these days. (Enjoy your last summers of freedom, kids!, you'll think to yourself. Before you turn old and responsibility-laden at 16 and have to work.) Gas prices are a factor here, but if you do a little cost/benefit analysis to fairly set your prices, and you keep distances short (no rides to the airport — but why would a kid need ride to the airport anyway?), it could end up profitable. Plus, it might give you a chance to chat up a client's older brother or sister who's back from college for the summer and is positively oozing with newfound, mature sexual energy now that they're old and living in a dorm room and stuff. Money doesn't have to be your only form of payment!
Start a laundromat. Speaking of kids home from college, you know what kids home from college have been (presumably) doing all year that they now don't want to do all summer? Laundry. This is where you come in! It would help to have an older sibling who could get you started and then give your name out to their friends, but if you don't, you must at least know one person who used to go to your high school. Get in touch with them and say "I know this is weird but times are tough, so I will do your laundry for you for the summer." Obviously some overly doting moms might thwart some of your plans, but plenty of parents want to teach their kid a lesson by treating them like an adult and not doing their chores for them. But, really, college kids are not adults, so relieve them of this annoying burden while earning some cash for yourself. Basically you just pop on over to their place during the day (remember they'll be home without jobs too), use the family washer and dryer, fold (for extra), then leave. Their parents will think they've had a productive day while they got to do nothing and you got paid. The perfect crime. Smelly, gross, potentially awkward crime (you are looking at people's underpants, after all), but perfect nonetheless.
Become a poolside server. One of the more annoying things about being at the beach or the lake or the pool is that when you get hungry or thirsty you have to get up and go somewhere to get food or drinks. (Well, if you haven't planned ahead.) Solve this problem for people by offering your services as a gofer. They don't have to get up out of their beach chairs and walk all the way over to the store or whatever it is that's nearby; you can do it for them, for a small fee. If people have been lying in the sun all day, and especially if they've been drinking, they will definitely be willing to pay a little extra to not have to move. Really the trick to this summer is to rely on the abject laziness of others. Luckily laziness is America's greatest natural resource. We're a slothful people, and we are always hungry or thirsty. The upsides to this job are that you'll get to be outside all day and will be constantly surrounded by people of whatever gender you prefer in very little clothing. The downsides are that you'll be running around in the sun all day, and will be constantly surrounded by lots of gross people in very little clothing. Weigh those positives and negatives as you will.
Sell some weed. Just find some weed, then sell it. That's probably what everyone else is doing.