In the moments when he is not attending luncheons, briefings, workshops, receptions or dinners, reading committee reports, answering mail, meeting with constituents, driving to Richmond and otherwise pursuing his duties as a newly elected member of the House of Delegates from Alexandria, Gary R. Myers sometimes likes to savor the prequisites of his office.
"There's some things I get a kick out of, like my new license plate," he says. "It reads 'DELEGATE 92.' That's nice. I feel like a little kid."
All the same, Republican Myers doesn't think he has many illusions about the power he will acquire when he is sworn in, along with his 99 colleagues, next Wednesday in the Democratic-dominated House at the State Capitol in Richmond.
"If a totem pole were being carved," he says, "I would be one of the first notches taken out of the tree."
Along with the seven other freshmen delegates in the Northern Virginia delegation, Myers is making some discoveries about what it is like to become a legislator.
"Everybody wants a little piece of you," he says. "You are inundated with invitations, requests for information, lobbying. It takes some adjusting - it really does."
Gladys Keating, a Democrat who was elected to serve southern Fairfax County, says, "I'm acting like a delegate, except I'm not getting paid." The delegates don't start collecting their $5,475 annual salary and office funds until they are sworn.
Keating thought that at least she could get some official stationery for her voluminous correspondence, but the clerk of the House said sorry, not until Jan. 11. So until then Keating uses paper with her compaign letterhead.
Elise Heinz, a Democrat who will serve Arlington County and Alexandria, recalled her post-election expectations: "I had the fond notion that I would be able to sit down at my desk and draft legislation and do all kinds of good and constructive things - none of which I have done."
Instead she has been preoccupied with a continuous round of meetings, most of them being held before, during or after lunch or dinner. "The quality of motel meals has improved enormously," Heinz observed.
Many of the sessions are requested by special-interest groups who want some particular action taken by the General Assembly.
According to Heinz, one of the most burning issues, if lobbying activity is any indication, is the question whether optometrists should be allowed to put eyedrops in their patients' eyes.The optometrists' group says yes, the medical groups say that only ophthamologists, or eye doctors, should be permitted to use drops.
Although she sometimes feels overwhelmed by the number of invitations, Heinz said, "I try to make all the receptions, lunches and dinners I can. It would be arrogant for a freshman delegate to decide so soon what is important."
For the first three weeks of December, Del.-elect James F. Almand of Arlington, another Democrat, had 21 engagements listed in his appointment book. Some of the meetings:
Dec. 1 - An orientation session at the state division of legislative services so he could learn how to draft a bill.
Dec. 4 - In the afternoon, the League of Women Voters of Arlington, in the evening the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Dec. 8 - A "strictly social" reception at the Falls Church headquarters of COPE, the AFL-CIO political education (or lobbying) arm, followed by a dinner at which the presidents of Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University presented their legislative requests - essentially bids for more construction money and higher salaries.
Dec. 11 - A "legislative appreciation" dinner and Christmas party sponsored by the Northern Virginia Automobile Dealers Association. "I don't have any idea of their needs," Almand said.
With all the functions to attend, Almand found that he had to sacrifice watching Redskins games on television. But last Wednesday he did set aside time to visit his mother in Arlington and take down her Christmas tree.
Kenneth R. Plum, a Democrat who will represent Fairfax, recalled that by Nov. 10, two days after the election, "I already had half a dozen invitations. They (the groups doing the inviting) must have had all the envelopes addressed and ready to mail."
Plum, however, doesn't think the public should conclude that a lunch or dinner with a special-interest group is anything sinister. "In reality," he said, "lunch or dinner is often the only time you have left, and they (the different groups) know that."
One gratifying change, the new delegate from Reston says, is that "during the campaign, you had to go out seven days a week and see everybody, but now, they come to see you."
One of the revelations to Republican Martin H. Perper, who will represent northern Fairfax, is that "I had no idea there could be so many sides to one question. In some cases there are six sides to a question. And I haven't come across one group that doesn't have something legitimate to say about their point."
Another discovery for Perper has been that significant issues do not always draw a commensurate amount of consituent mail. "For example," he said, "the county charter for Fairfax would affect everyone in the county in substantive way, but there has been relatively little mail on the issue. Mail on the optometrist-ophthalmologist issue is outrunning it 10- to 15- to 20-to-1.
Republican Robert L. Thoburn, elected from southern Fairfax, said that after the election "I suddenly found a host of new friends. But I'm not complaining, they're a nice group of people."
Thoburn was criticized during the campaign - even by fellow Republicans - for his unbending conservative positions on controversial issues. But says that since Nov. 8 he has been getting along witheverybody, including Democrats. In fact, he says, "the Democrats have been just as friendly as, if not more so, than Republicans."
He admits, however that he caused consternation at a caucus of the entire Northern Virginia delegation called to get unanimous support for a bill that would give Fairfax County a charter, a move that would halt any future annexation attempts by cities within or adjacent to the county.
"All the other delegates agreed to cosponsor the legislation," he recalled," but I said, 'Oh, no, I'm not going to do that.' . . . They were somewhat crestfallen."
On the other hand, he said he has found himself in agreement with some of the requests of one group that had campaigned for his opponents - the Fairfax Education Association, which represents teachers in the county school system. Like the FSA, Thoburn said he favors the option of early retirement at age 55, or after 30 years of work although probably not at the same pension level the teachers' group wants.
"I said to them," Thoburn recalled with obvious relish, "you may find I'm the best friend in Richmond you have."