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Breaking a Record in Slow-Mow

April 14, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG

And Miles to Mow Before He Sleeps: Let's face it, we're running out of decent historic feats. The moon has been walked on, the sound barrier has been broken and the globe has been circled by everything from primitive rafts to hot-air balloons. If Charles Lindbergh were alive today, he'd probably be doing exactly what Brad Hauter is doing: driving a power lawn mower across the United States.

Hauter, a 33-year-old college soccer coach, began his trek in Atlanta a week ago behind the wheel of a Yard-Man riding mower equipped with cruise control and a cup holder.

It's slow going. Six days after leaving Atlanta, Hauter was . . . still in Atlanta. No, actually, his tractor mower has a souped-up engine that can go 22 mph, and he had already made it to Virginia.

By mid-June, he hopes to reach Santa Monica, the final stop on a 4,900-mile route designed to break the current mower record of 3,500 miles. The trip is also raising money for the Keep America Beautiful program.

Philosophical Question of the Day: If President Clinton is serious when he tells Yugoslavia that "the expulsion [of an ethnic group] from their homes and their land cannot be tolerated," does this mean he's also going to turn the United States back over to the Indians?

To the Moon, Alice: NASA says it might soon launch an all-woman space shuttle crew. So we put our all-male team of time-traveling journalists aboard Caltech's experimental time machine and sent them to the year 2000 for a full report on the historic mission. They returned with this blatantly sexist chronology:

* The launch is delayed an hour because crew members can't decide whether to wear the strapless black spacesuits with Ferragamo pumps or the sultry red spacesuits with plunging necklines.

* The flight is delayed again when President Clinton is caught trying to sneak aboard the craft.

* Blastoff.

* The shuttle successfully passes through the Earth's atmosphere, but then has to return because one of the crew members thinks she left an iron on at home.

* Second liftoff.

* Crew members complain that John Glenn left the toilet seat up on a previous shuttle mission.

* Astronauts conduct the first spacewalk in high heels.

* A spider is found aboard the shuttle. NASA gets a call in the middle of the night begging someone to come over and kill the spider.

* An emergency rescue ship is launched to dock with the shuttle and squash the spider.

* An electrical short caused by the use of too many blow dryers causes the ship to veer off course. Fortunately, the crew doesn't mind stopping to ask for directions, and NASA realizes it has been wasting millions of dollars on global positioning satellite direction systems for its male shuttle pilots. The men also insist on costly remote-control devices and control panels with lots of blinking lights.

* NASA bans men from future shuttle flights.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "George Washington Was Really a Sniveling Little Wimp, Says New Book!" (Weekly World News)

According to WWN, he cried like a girl in battle and during the bitter winter of 1778 began to shriek, "We will all die." Another officer had to slap him to end the hysteria.

Off-Kilter's e-mail address is Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, Martin Miller, Ann Harrison. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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