'Keys! Keys!': After I found a set of lost keys in a supermarket parking lot, I didn't know if I'd ever find their owner

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

My mother and I went to the grocery store two days ago. As we walked through the parking lot, I spotted a set of keys on a red lanyard lying on the ground near the gutter.

I picked up the keys and held my hand at the level of my eyes so the keys dangled. "I have to find the owner of these keys," I told my mother.

One of my concerns was that the owner of the keys wouldn't realize they were missing and therefore would pay no attention to the woman walking around with them on display. I decided to look for people who seemed to be missing keys.

What do people who are missing keys without realizing they are missing keys look like? I started in the produce department, brandishing the keys at women who looked pensive and asking if they were missing their keys.

It quickly began to seem like a lost cause. So I decided to try another tactic.

I jangled the keys, still holding them by the lanyard at eye level, and I started saying, "KEYS. KEYS." in the loudest voice I dared.

One of the other shoppers suggested I bring the keys to the service desk. I walked to the service desk and handed over the keys to an employee who told me I had just missed the owner of the keys. That was a bummer. I sure wished I had gone directly to the front desk instead of searching for the owner myself.

I asked the employee for a description of the woman. "Older with shoulder-length hair," she replied. That described every woman at Stop and Shop.

Despite having relinquished the errant keys, I remained determined to locate their owner.

I resumed walking up and down the aisles, chanting, "Keys. Keys" at regular intervals. I chased one woman when I spotted her looking down every aisle. "Keys. Keys," I shouted at the back of her head.

When she didn't stop, I got in front of her and asked her breathlessly if she had lost her keys. "You look like a woman on a mission," I told her.

"That's because I'm looking for the person I came here with," she replied.

Oh. Oops.

One more try, I decided to take a brisk walk around the parking lot to see if I could find anyone who appeared to be in distress. No luck.

I decided to let the service desk handle the missing keys so I could enjoy shopping with my mother.

As we rounded the last corner and headed for the self-checkout, I noticed a woman walking up and down the aisles like she was playing Pac-Man. She wasn't pushing a cart, and she wasn't carrying any groceries.

"Isn't it funny," I said to my mother, "now, everyone I see looks to me like they lost their keys." I kept walking.

As I was checking us out at the self-checkout area, I saw Ms. Pac-Man talking to the self-checkout attendant. I couldn't hear what they were saying, and I decided to give this key thing one last shot.

"Excuse me," I said, "are you talking about keys?"

And that's how I finally found the owner of the lost keys. I told her I'd given them to the woman at the service desk, and she patted my shoulder. "Isn't that wonderful?" she said. She was beaming.

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Ordained Minister, Universal Life Church

Massachusetts State

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