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Recycling keys for a county car


Nestled amid old Pampers, beneath rotting banana peels, mixed in with remnants of Prego jars past, is a set of keys in the Millersville Landfill that belong to a county Chevrolet Cavalier.

This is not the county's new car pool policy ("You find 'em, you drive 'em away"), although such a policy would cut down on unauthorized use.

The keys were apparently dropped by a county official conducting a tour of the 567-acre wasteland for a citizen's

advisory group.

Now, quite frankly, if I'm trying to placate landfill neighbors, I'm going to take them to Kaufmann's for crabs and a cold one. They already know what the landfill looks like -- and smells like.

But, philosophy aside, a bunch of us found ourselves in a county caravan to the deep recesses of the landfill: seven or eight committee members in a van driven by John Zolhen, the deputy director of solid waste, and resident Bob Klempa and two reporters in the Cavalier, driven by Faye Scheibe, assistant to the director of the Department of Utilities.

The going got too rough for the Cavalier, and we had to abandon it for a four-wheel drive truck with the county executive's aide, Sam Minette, at the wheel.

After checking out the trash, we returned to the Cavalier, parked about one mile from the main gate. Scheibe and one reporter got out and walked to the car. Minette drove off with the neighbor and the other reporter.

It was then that we discovered Scheibe had recycled her keys somewhere in the landfill. She insisted she left the keys in the ignition.

"We are kind of far away here," Scheibe observed as Minette's taillights got smaller and smaller. "And I've got high heels on. Please don't write any of this down."

Far away and the sky getting darker by the minute, we started to walk.

"I don't know where we are," Scheibe said. (Note to other reporters: Don't let Scheibe lead your next safari.)

Luckily, Zohlen came looking for us. He had to account for everyone before he could lock the front gate.

We scrambled into the van with the rest of the committee members and drove back to the Western District Police Station for the remainder of the meeting.

Minette was waiting for us. "Sam could see we were not following him, but he went right on going," Scheibe insisted. "I blew the horn. Sam will stop. He wouldn't dare leave us. He knows we weren't behind him."

But Sam didn't know. "The first thing I thought of was, you guys are stuck. I swear to God I couldn't hear you."

The committee members laughed when they heard the story. Zohlen, who had drawn a map of the landfill on the chalkboard earlier in the evening, added a picture of a car and drew an arrow to the words: "Faye's abandoned county vehicle."

Lisa Ritter, the customer relations manager for the utilities department, didn't find the episode too funny, however.

"This is not amusing. Everything I own is in that trunk." She had to call her husband to pick her up.

A few days later, after getting a spare set of keys and finding her purse, money, house keys and driver's license safe, Ritter was able to find humor in the saga after all. "It's taught me a valuable lesson," she said. "Never lend Faye anything."

And, Ritter said, luckily for Scheibe, keys "are an acceptable landfill material."

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