PITTSFIELD -- For those of us who commute to Pittsfield or points north, the drive on the Fourth of July can be slow and a little tedious.
Some of this is because of the wildly popular James Taylor shows at Tanglewood. Often, when I’m stuck in traffic on Route 7 around now, I make that face Jerry Seinfeld used to make and grit my teeth the same way. And I utter "Taylor!" the same way he used to say, "Newman!"
But it’s not really JTs fault, obviously. It is just the beginning of the heavy-duty summer tourist season with which we all must deal.
Now that I know every short cut in South County, it’s not a huge deal. (To be honest, they aren’t really "short cuts." Sometimes they’re longer than the road I’m avoiding. But as long as my car keeps moving, I feel good about the whole thing.)
I want people visiting here to understand that by now, most of us get it. Yes, some of the visitors here will run into people who sort of enjoy being annoyed by your presence. It’s sill fashionable in some parts of the Berkshires. Plus, I can’t be everywhere.
Anyway, as a kind of public service, I wanted to offer a few tips if you do come here from another land.
n Don’t block the sidewalks. I know; it’s darned exciting to be in front of the SoCo ice cream parlor on Railroad Street, but the sidewalk there is pretty narrow. In the fall, we’re all used to walking unimpeded. I wish there were more people around there in the winter; that way, the next time I fall, there will be someone there. But just be aware of the crowds.
n Cross in the crosswalks. This is imperative. Last summer, I was toodling down Main Street in Great Barrington and this guy and his wife just popped out into the street in front of the Fuel coffee shop. When there are a lot of cars on Main Street, especially the bigger SUVs, drivers can’t see anything. But most of us are aware of the crosswalks. You have a better chance when you’re in them.
n Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Just about everyone in the Berkshires really enjoys giving directions. I’m serious. It makes us feel better as a community. We feel magnanimous without actually giving anything away. And more importantly, rarely will you run into someone who doesn’t know where your destination is, but will still make something up. We’re an honest people when it comes to directions.
n Tip. I know, I know, you’re only going to be here a week. But waiters and waitresses in the Berkshires (A.) have memories like elephants, so when you come back next year, they’ll remember and (B.) all talk among themselves and in many cases, work at a couple places. So if you stiff too many of them, the scouting report will be out.
n Don’t worry about blending in. In every town in the county, except probably Pittsfield, we all know each other. When you and your family show up, we know you’re from somewhere else. And we don’t really care.
n There are almost as many Yankee fans here as Red Sox fans. A lot of us grew up watching Bill White and Phil Rizzuto on WPIX, because the station reached into Berkshire County. So if your kid wants to wear a Jeter shirt, let him. About 40 percent of the people you run into will smile at it. I’m not going to completely vouch for the other 60 percent.
Finally, it’s summer. This summer, especially, we’re coming out of a nasty ol’ winter. So we’re glad you’re here. In large part because those of us with kids who have service jobs won’t have to dole out spending money to them. Much.
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile