My recent experience with a call to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland office reminded me of a 1965 poem by Yip Harburg titled “Should I Write a Letter to My Congressman?” which goes as follows:

“Each congressman has got two ends,

“A sitting and a thinking end,

“And since his whole success depends

“Upon his seat – why bother, friend?”

On Monday, I called and spoke with staffer Kate Simpson, asking for help in understanding the senator’s vote to allow internet service providers to sell their customers’ usage data. Ms. Simpson said that the senator had not issued a statement but that she would get back to me with comments reported in the newspaper. I left my name and phone number so she could do that.

Having heard nothing since, I called back Wednesday, two days later, and spoke again with Ms. Simpson. She said the two important points were that the senator felt that since the Obama regulations protecting customers didn’t cover “fringe providers” (Ms. Simpson didn’t define these for me when I asked) and hadn’t yet taken effect, that I was no less safe today than I was last week.

I tried to say that while legislation covering all facets of the internet would be desirable, I didn’t see how preventing some regulation from taking effect was a step forward. We don’t need to cure all diseases before we tackle some.

Ms. Simpson was combative, and repeatedly interrupted me. She more than once dismissively said, “Happy to pass your comments along,” when she had no substantive reply. I could feel her rolling her eyes.

I did not in any way feel that my concerns mattered even slightly – the idea of representative government must be foreign to that office. I hope Sen. Collins will reassure us with a better answer to the poet’s question, “Why bother, friend?”

Charles Duncan