My Husband’s “Brush” With the Law


During our recent trip to Philadelphia and New Jersey, I encountered this street sign (Ellen Lane) in my childhood neighborhood while my husband, James, and I were taking a walk. Growing up in the area, I always thought it was cool that there was a street with my name on it. I commented to him that I’d like to get a photo of the sign for my blog.

Later, we returned to the street sign and my very dutiful husband got out and took photos of the sign while I waited in the van. He returned and showed me the pictures, which I could see were all vertical. I had wanted one that was horizontal. “Do you mind taking one that is horizontal?” I asked him. He sighed, returned to the sign and snapped a few more photos.

During this time, however, an SUV pulled up and a man yelled, “What do you think you’re doing there?”

James replied nervously, “Uh…I’m taking a picture of the street sign.”

The man, who we could tell was a police officer in an unmarked car, asked sharply, “Why?”

My husband, now embarrassed, continued. “Well, you know, my wife’s name is Ellen and she wanted me to take a picture of the sign.”

The officer wore a pinched expression. Looking down at our Ontario license plate, he asked, “You came all the way from Canada to take a photo of that sign?”

James hadn’t wanted to go back and take more photos, but he did, because I asked him to. He offered the policeman a sheepish grin. “Well, no,” he answered, “my wife grew up in this area; we’re just visiting.”

An interrogation regarding the names of the people we were visiting ensued, with my husband giving last names of my siblings until the officer finally seemed to recognize one and his expression softened. He smiled and said, “Doesn’t it snow a lot in Canada?”

From there, it was all friendly conversation and I’m sure the officer was probably just looking out for his neighbors. Still, it was a bit scary.

And my husband, who has always been a law-abiding citizen, wasn’t impressed with his “brush with the law.”

But…I did get a cool photo of a street sign with my name on it.

Photo and text copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

23 thoughts on “My Husband’s “Brush” With the Law

  1. So funny Ellen. Though next time you can remind your husband there is the right to remain silent 😉

  2. With all that’s going on in the world, I believe the officer was thinking “terrorist”. Why else would anybody be taking pictures of a sign post. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was actually called to check you guys out.

  3. Pingback: My Husband’s “Brush” With the Law | Catholic Canada

  4. It’s a good thing that James apparently had a clear conscience, otherwise he might have blurted out a confession unnecessarily! Something like this: “I admit it, officer. I brought an apple into the U.S. from Canada! You’ll find the core in the backseat.” My best friend & I went to New Zealand for 2 weeks in 1984, and we were NOT to bring anything organic into the country upon our return. (I believe this was to prevent bringing in destructive insects or other organisms riding along on the fruit, vegetable, etc.) She realized after boarding the plane that she had forgotten an apple that was in her backpack, and worried about having unintentionally broken the law. If an officer had approached her for any reason, she would probably have pulled out the apple & pleaded for mercy!

  5. Thanks, everyone, for the comments! Barbara, LOL! Esther, I agree that nowadays, police officers might be thinking “terrorists.” Margie, James definitely had a clear conscience (and neither of us had any idea that taking a photo of a street sign would get him in trouble!) Thanks, Elisa!

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  8. There’s a street name in my town with my daughter’s name on it and I’ve taken a picture. Several weeks ago, the flags went up along the parade route in Clarksburg. it looked stunning, but I knew my family would be out of town and miss the parade. So I took a picture from the side of the road. A marked patrol car drive by and I fully expected to have to give an account for my activity. Imagine, photographing a parade route in this day and age!

    Anyway, none of this is surprising to me in NJ.

  9. I’m sure James would walk over hot coals for you, Ellen. There was a guy in CA. teaching how to do it. Cool picture! Do watch out for Big Brother though.

  10. Very cool picture. Now about that camera weapon… aimed at a street sign… Looney tunes. Just looney tunes.

  11. Thank you, Joann, Barb and Carol…Yes, Joann, I think my husband would definitely walk over hot coals for me! Barb, it was looney to think that my husband was “interrogated” over a picture. Carol, crazy stories make great blog posts!

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