Ten years ago, I came as close to committing murder as I have ever come. Cheerily, I stopped by my friendly neighborhood photo store to pick up the pictures I had shot in Russia the previous month. Cheerily, the counterman informed me that my film had been lost by the out-of-town developer to whom it had been sent.

The only reason I didn't kill the counterman on the spot was because the loss wasn't his fault (he was quick to point this out to me -- obviously he had seen near-homicidal customers before, and was no fool).

But there was a possible way out of this horrible state of affairs. It didn't occur to me at the time, but the other day, it occurred to Sharon S. Daugherty of Gaithersburg.

As Sharon points out, "lost" pix probably have been exchanged with someone else's pix in the developer's shipping department, by mistake. The correct name and address are almost certainly on the batch that gets sent to the wrong address. To undo the mistake, the recipient of the "lost" film should simply it back to the developer, or directly on to the correct address. Kind of a photographic honor system.

Sharon did her part for the honor system the other day when she received a batch of photos in the mail that weren't hers. The photos showed a woman's 80th birthday party -- and the batch bore a name and address.

Sharon couldn't bring herself to chuck photos that didn't belong to her, and that might be important to someone else. So she sprang for the postage, and shipped the pictures to their rightful snappers.

Those people "were quite pleased to receive the pictures," Sharon writes. But no one has made Sharon equally pleased. The photos of her recent trip to Southeast are still in Somewhereland.

As Sharon puts it, "Please don't just throw photos away." Take a little time and a little postage to make things right. Realize that if someone else has lost photos, you could be next.

Add One, Good Suggestions Dept.:

"With all the admonitions to conserve water in the area," writes Lawrence H. Boteler of McLean, "may I suggest . . . . {collecting} the air conditioner condensate instead of letting it run down the drain? Like many others, I collect several gallons a day for the garden, plants and refilling the auto windshield washer."

You say you've had a good year? It couldn't have been as good as the year Theresa and James Cupp have had at their home on Rolling Road in Springfield.

The Cupps have lived there for 7 years. In that time, 17 cars have gone out of control and crashed on their front lawn or in their driveway.

In several cases, the accidents took a piece out of a Cuppmobile that was parked in the driveway. In all, the 17 accidents have caused between $15,000 and $20,000 in damage to their cars, James Cupp estimates.

So why has this year been so good?

Because there hasn't been an accident in the Land of Cupp since April, 1986.

But perhaps the most remarkable part of this story is James Cupp's attitude. After all his family has been through, he can still say: "In general, it's a quiet neighborhood."

He can also say this: "We have no plans to move."

Pet peeve, as phoned in by a gent in Maryland:

At every grocery store in suburban-dom, the lane closest to the front door is a fire lane.

That means no parking.

Not no parking sometimes. Not no parking on odd-numbered Tuesdays. It means no parking, ever, so that emergency vehicles can do what they need to do, in case they need to do it.

But the gent in Maryland says that at every grocery he ever visits, people park in the fire lane all the time. Worse: If someone goes in and tells the manager, and he tells these selfish sillies to move their cars, the S.S.'s tell him to take a hike.

Will it take a major fire in a grocery, that fire engines can't get close to, before the S.S.'s clean up their acts? I hope not. But I fear so.

Jack Gilbert of Rockville nominates Oliver North for secretary of agriculture.

Why North? Because, says Jack, he would sell the Russians shredded wheat.

With that, Levey vanishes into the gathering dusk, to spend the next three weeks on vacation.

No doubt the calluses on his typing fingers will soften. No doubt it will be heartbreaking to watch the alarm clock sit there, unset. It'll be a tough time -- but, hey, someone's got to do it.

Stay happy and healthy. See you on Sept. 2.