Linda Chambers was deciding on hot dog buns on the opening day of the new Longboat Key Publix when she noticed a woman looking at her.
The woman obviously wanted to ask Chambers a question.
Finally, the woman, Jody Vitt, piped up:
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked. “Did you ever lose a camera?”
“Yes,” Chambers answered.
Vitt had other questions:
How long ago did you lose it? What color was it? Did it have vacation pictures?
Chambers’ answers: Almost a year ago. Red. Yes.
In a flash, Vitt knew she’d found the woman she had started looking for nearly nine months earlier.
“I found your camera!” Vitt exclaimed.
Vitt has found all kinds of things during her three- to five-mile daily jogs over the years.
Credit cards. Money. A man’s watch. Dozens and dozens of golf balls. She has turned them in to nearby condominium guards or to the BP gas station nearby. Last spring, she noticed the camera lying on the ground as she ran past Tangerine Bay Club. When she turned on the camera, she found at least 600 pictures.
There were pictures from China and Italy, a cruise, a wedding and school plays.
“There were some beautiful pictures,” Vitt said. “I knew they were special.”
But Chambers didn’t even know that her Sony Cybershot camera was missing. She figured she had misplaced it and would find it in a drawer. She took pictures with her cell phone for the next nine months and hoped that the camera would suddenly materialize.
Vitt asked friends, neighbors, gas station clerks and condominium guards if they knew the identity of the woman with the short blond hair in most of the photos. She took out an ad for two weeks in the newspaper.
She blew up one photo until she could see a real-estate sign, which listed a Toronto-based contractor as the builder. She deduced that the owner was probably Canadian and called the phone number she found for the contractor, hoping someone might know the owner.
No luck there. Finally, she left the camera with her friend, Euphemia Haye owner D’Arcy Arpke, in hopes that she might recognize a customer as the owner of the camera.
Vitt figured she would recognize the owner anywhere. She was right.
While talking to a Publix clerk, she picked Chambers out of the crowd that flooded the store aisles on opening day.
When Vitt later delivered the camera, Chambers insisted that Vitt come in for a glass of wine. Vitt was right to assume the pictures were special.
The trip to Italy was a 65th birthday celebration of Chambers’ husband, Terry. The couple made the trip to China with 13 neighbors from Canada, where they live half the year. The school plays featured Chambers’ grandchildren.
Chambers was at first stumped when she contemplated how she lost the camera. She walks in the area most days but never brings her camera. Then her husband reminded her of the night they had dinner on St. Armands Circle and took a golf-cart cab that dropped them off just over the Longboat side of the New Pass Bridge.
Chambers tripped as she and her husband walked back to their Country Club Shores home. Apparently, she dropped the camera, as well.
For both women, the camera’s return had a photo-worthy finish. They learned that they live one block from each other and have mutual friends and acquaintances. Now, they share a budding friendship as well.