"I've been threatening to give an orientation course to tell retiring congressmen how it is," says Thomas Rees, who decided in 1976 to say goodbye to the House after spending 12 years representing the voters of Beverly Hills. "It takes about six months - when you hear a bell you don't automatically get up. And it's lonely because you don't get all those invitations from the 'Second Trustee Institute of America' or the 'Clay Pipe Institute.' And you have to get used to a two-hour lunch."

Rees, now a 53-year-old Washington lawyer specializing in international finance, probably could have grown old as a politician. But he wanted to make more money and felt himself growing insulated and weary of congressional life.

Now that he's John Q. Citizen, Rees says he's had the unpleasant experience of having laws he helped pass "come back to haunt me," specifically confusing, burdensome tax legislation. He says he understands why pundits call every tax reform act "the lawyers' and accountants' relief act." And he wonders "how the West would have been won 130 years ago under ERDA [Energy Research and Development Administration]." Rees thinks ex-congressmen should return for one year to the House after spending five years in the real world to report the effect of legislation on the public.

The good side of private life for Rees: time to go fishing with his two teen-age sons, a more predictable schedule, the opportunity to study a problem at a leisurely pace, and the absence of prying reporters. Has he ever been tempted to write his congressman?

Says Rees: "I'm in the process of writing my congressman [Newtown Steers of Montgomery County] about airplane noise over Bethesda. I have a suspicion those airplanes avoid McLean."