Inspired by certain recent events, I last month joined the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of two climate-defense organizations (along with the Natural Resources Defence Council) which multiple friends recommended as worthy of my regular financial support. Yesterday they emailed their membership urging action against Trump’s disturbingly nihilistic proposal that Scott Pruitt, an avowed foe of the Environmental Protection Agency, should lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

This email energized me, because if you got all your news from reading my Twitter timeline, you’d have thought Pruitt’s appointment a done deal, an unstoppable act of Trumpian fiat. I found myself immediately hungry to help push back however I could while the opportunity remained. So, this afternoon, perhaps feeling a bit at loose ends with my week’s major task behind me, I did something quite uncharacteristic: I called the offices of my three congresspeople.

(Quick American civics lesson: U.S. citizens typically have exactly three people representing them in Congress. Two senators represent their state of residence, and their congressional district — a geographic slice of their state — has one member within the House of Representatives. I’m sure that many exceptions and edge cases exist against this pattern, but as a perfectly ordinary full-time resident of Rhode Island, mine is the typical setup.)

I used, as goad and guide, the excellent article “Shy Person’s Guide to Calling Representatives” from the Action Friday blog. It makes the case for calling your representatives instead of tweeting at or emailing them, even if you hate using the telephone as much as I do. It proceeds to help prepare you for the call, advising you to treat it as two-minute mission to get yourself on-record as a constituent with a precise concern, with no dreadful requirement to have an actual conversation with anyone.

And so I began with this tool by the National Priorities project to find out my reps’ names and websites. Visiting their respective homepages, I marked down the phone numbers for their offices in Washington DC, and noted other immediately salient facts. (I quickly learned that David Cicilline, for example, prefers the title “Congressman” for himself, versus “Representative” or what have you.) Then I used Inogolo to find out how to pronounce Congressman Cicilline’s name, as well as Scott Pruitt’s. And then I wrote a little script in triplicate, which looked like this:

Hello, I’m Jason McIntosh, a constituent of Congressman Cicilline, and I’m calling about a concern that I have?

I would like to urge the congressman to oppose the appointment of Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator.

::

Hello, my name is Jason McIntosh, I’m a constituent of Senator Reed, and I’m calling about a concern that I have?

I would like to urge the senator to oppose the appointment of Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator.

::

Hello, my name is Jason McIntosh, I’m a constituent of Senator Whitehouse, and I’m calling about a concern that I have?

I would like to urge the senator to oppose the appointment of Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator.

Then, I made my calls. All three of them went like this:

PERSON ANSWERING PHONE: Good afternoon, [name of congressperson]’s office.

ME: Hello, my name is Jason McIntosh, I’m a constituent of [name of congressperson], and I’m calling about a concern that I have?

ANSWERER: I can certainly pass along a message to the [title of congressperson], go ahead. (Or some variant of this.)

ME: I would like to urge the senator to oppose the appointment of Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator.

ANSWERER: I will let the [title of congressperson] know.

In two cases, my interlocutor followed up by asking for my mailing address; in the third, they let me know that the senator had coincidentally released a statement on this topic earlier this week. In every case, with all that business settled, I said “Thank you very much, goodbye,” and that was that.

So, all told, I found it no harder than ordering a pizza. I say this as someone who doesn’t like ordering pizza, or doing much of anything else by way of telephone. So, yeah, it was a little hard! But far from impossible. I feel very good about having made these calls, and can see myself doing it again. I share this tale in the hopes that it helps my fellow phone-shy citizens join me in overcoming their distaste in the interest of stronger civic action and resistance.


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