To the editor of THE EAGLE:
My family recently spent a delightful week in Berkshire County. My father is a Pittsfield native (PHS class of ‘48!) who still has many cousins living in the area. We visited the Herman Melville house, attended a play at Barrington Stage, drove to the top of Mount Greylock, pampered ourselves with facials at the Crown Plaza’s spa and enjoyed the cuisine of many local establishments. My sisters and I were treated to drive-by tours of my father’s boyhood home as well as schools and churches he attended in his youth. The remainder of our time was spent swimming, kayaking, and telling family stories with our many Dillon cousins as we sat on the shores of Onota Lake.
We experienced one unfortunate misunderstanding, however, involving my 25-year-old nephew, Danny, who is mildly autistic and enjoys spending all day swimming. Unbeknownst to us, there is apparently a serious crime wave on the lake, and a concerned neighbor called the police to report that a male at our house was spending what was thought to be an excessive amount of time in the lake, and in fact casing their home. While the unexpected arrival of a police officer on a sunny afternoon was initially cause for alarm, it did give us an opportunity to discuss with Danny that indeed, some of us can seem odd, threatening, or just paranoid or prejudicial toward people whom we do not know well.
Officer Ortega arrived and patiently explained to Danny why the police had been called, and calmed a young man who thought he had actually done something terribly wrong. Ironically, Danny’s greatest crime is asking someone repeatedly if he or she is wearing socks, and he is adamant that members of his family maintain a constant supply of dental floss. He’s probably the most law-abiding 25-year-old Mr. Ortega will ever encounter in his career.
Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that Officer Ortega and his colleagues must balance the needs of many constituents during Pittsfield’s summers. Some owners of second homes may be looking to be totally undisturbed on their weekend getaways. Then there are the year-round residents who must share their bucolic surroundings with tourists and do so with grace and hospitality.
I can say from first-hand experience that Officer Ortega handled the situation between a second homeowner and a rental family with professionalism and compassion for a young man with special needs. The Pittsfield community is fortunate to have a man such as Officer Ortega on its force.
EDITH (DILLON) THOMPSON