Few Americans have a better idea of the impact of last November's election that Don Gabrielson of Star Prairie, Wis., and Bob DePue of Cincinnati.
Gabrielson and DuPue are telephone installers -- two of the nearly 100 lent to the local Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. by Bell System affiliates as far away as the Pacific Northwest -- who have landed nonpolitical plums that dramatically illustrate the breadth of the Republican landslide.
Never before has the telephone company had to change so many telephones in so short a period of time -- more than 5,100 at the Capitol alone -- as the result of an election.
"It's the largest move ever," said W. E. Collins, who supervises Capitol Hill telephone service for C&P. "And unlike regular customers, we can't tell these people the installer will be there next Tuesday. They all want it done yesterday."
So the local phone company recruited volunteers from sister systems across the country to accommodate the new Republican majority in the Senate and major changes resultng from GOP gains in the House and the change in occupancy at the White House.
The arrival of 19 new senators, and the switching of chairmen of all committees from Democrats to Republicans, will require the relocation of 1,600 Senate telephones. For example, at the Senate Budget Committee, one of the smaller feifdoms, 106 lines at 90 stations are being changed as GOP staffers swap desks with Democrats.
On the House side, about 3,500 phones are being changed. Although the job there is easier because the system has been computerized some of the 73 new members still cannot be contacted directly. A message center for new members has been set up in the Ways and Means hearing room. But C & P has promised the House Government Operations Committee that all phones will be operational by Jan. 24.
On the Senate side, where the phones are not computerized, the target date for completing the switchovers is March 31, but one installer working in the Dirksen Building said "we'll probably still be here this summer."
The taxpayers, who forced the changes, will also pay for them. A spokesman for C & P said Congress will be billed the normal cost of installng each new or moved phone. With $35 the charge for a six-button desk phone, which is typical of those used on the Hill, the changeover at the Capitol will cost about $175,000.
In addition to the 75 installers working on the Hill, 45 of whom are from out of town, another 50 Bell system employees have been brought to Washington to install extra telephone and television circuits for the inaugural. The cost of that work, however, will be borne by the requesting news agencies.
Technicians are here for up to three months from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Morth Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.
For all of the on-loan employees, working in Washington is a bonanza. They are working a 68-hour, six-day week, which for DePue means his normal weekly gross pay of $450 at Cincinnati Bell will swell to $1,088 for the two months he is on temporary assignments here.
Each out-of-town worker also gets a $20-a-day meal allowance, laundry service, a room at either the Guest Quarters hotel on New Hampshire Avenue or the Hospitality House in Crystal City.
But for DePue and Gabrielson, neither of whom had ever been to Washington before they arrived at National Airport last Sunday, the chief benefit (besides the money) is the chance for them and their families to see the Nation's Capital. Every third week, each of them can either be flown home or have a family member flown here.
Because they are working from 8 a.m., to 9 p.m., about all they have seen so far is the Metro line that connects their motel with the Capitol.
Nonetheless, the 37-year-old DePue said "it was a thrill for me" to first glimpse the Capitol on Monday morning "walking from the Metro. And to tell the truth, that was my first subway ride, and that was fun too."
Both DePue and Gabrielson, 55, plan to have their wives visit them here Jan. 23, and three weeks later DePue's three children will make the trip.
Gabrielson, a 34-year veteran of Northwestern Bell, works out of Stillwater, Minn., just across the line from his village of 362 people.
Sitting amid a tangle of wires in a third-floor suite of the Dirksen Building, where the work-order for Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho) called for installing 22 phones and 29 lines, DePue and Gabrielson said they had been suprised by their first-hand dealings with members of the World's Most Exclusive Club.
"I was really impressed with Sen. $ Mattingly (R-Ga.)." DePue said. "He and [Christopher] Dodd (D-Conn.) and [Dan] Quayle (R-Ind.) all are just nice guys."
Added Gabrielson, who had just finished working in the offices of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), "if they are as good to their constituents as they have been to us, they should be pretty good people."