Division St. Bridge (copy)

The Division Street bridge in Great Barrington is pictured here in 2020.

I had planned to write this piece as an outraged citizen of Berkshire County, asking the powers that be, “All right, already. How long before we get to use the Cottage and Division Street bridges in Great Barrington or any of the bridges that the state decides to close for repairs?”

However, having previously been caught behind the eight ball of my impulsive behavior, before I write might it not be a good idea to do a little research and check facts and figures? A rare occurrence, unfortunately, in today’s political climate.

My first call was to District 1 of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in Lenox. They were very responsive. With that conversation, my outraged citizen status was reduced to concerned citizen.

However, it was state Rep. Smitty Pignatelli who brought me into the light. In a world where leaving your name and number for a call back belongs to an old and distant memory, Rep. Pignatelli returned my call so promptly I didn’t believe it was him.

“You want the facts, ma’am?”

“Yes, please.”

“Bridges aren’t sexy.”

That’s interesting. It never occurred to me that bridges were gendered in any way. Apparently, taxing the citizenry for their upkeep is just not that exciting. Taxing for bridge maintenance can’t hold a candle to schools, fire and police departments, marijuana stores, real estate — now those are sexy.

Until you can’t cross the bridge, that is. Then bridges are not only sexy (move over Marilyn Monroe), but they are life-affirming.

“Get the state on the line, now!”

Hold it! I learned that along with quite a few others, the Cottage and Division Street bridges are town-owned not state-owned.

Town-owned!?

“Get the town on the phone, now!”

Over the years, bridge maintenance has been on town meeting agendas. It appears bridge repairs are not only not sexy, but there doesn’t seem to be the necessary quorum at these meetings to authorize monies for repairs.

A perfect Catch 22!

We have citizens, and I am one of them, who do not go to town meetings to participate in what is left of our democracy by the people, of the people,and for the people. Now I have to put my money where my mouth is or shut it. This is an almost impossible request.

What it does signal for me is that, as a citizen, I have a responsibility. I cannot complain if I am part of the problem.

It is far too easy in this solo internet climate to forget our neighbors and to participate in the practice of living in a democracy. We really do function best as a community.

Now, I am not going to tell you how to live (even though I desperately want to). As for me, either I take the time to look into the agendas of the town meetings (they are published) to become more aware of issues that are important to me and my neighbors or I go back to that game of solitaire on my computer.

I am not wagging a finger, because this is about being human.

“Repair bridges?”

“How about next year!”

And then, as often happens, the next, and the next, and the next thing you know, the bridges close.

But in the meantime, five — count ’em, five — marijuana shops have opened in Great Barrington alone.

So what has that to do with repaired bridges and ultimately, Democracy?

Bridges aren’t sexy! Marijuana is sexy! Marijuana is money! Local and state tax money. So here is my suggestion to speed bridge repairs in the future: Open the “Cottage and Division Street Bridges Happy Wellness Toll Booth and Apothecary.”

And I want to never forget that participating in a democracy is not only my responsibility; it is a privilege that not everyone has. My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to keep that privilege alive and kicking. Want to join me?

Sally-Jane Heit is an actor, writer, and longtime resident of Berkshire County with a mind of her own. If you don’t believe it, check out her Blah, Blah, Blog at sallyjaneheit.wordpress.com.