"Hey!" the man said, with a quick look of recognition at the face under the brown derby hat. "You got fired! Congratulations!"

The elevator door in the Labor Department closed on him. One floor later another man got on, looked, extended his hand to pump Bella Abzug's. "It takes a lot of guts to stand up to the president in this day and age," he said.

"You can't speak out today," Abzug said. "I have to. It's my way."

"It's my may too," the man called out as she got off the elevator: "That's why I don't ever get anyplace."

Yesterday Abzug was winding up affairs as co-chairwoman at the office of the National Advisory Committee for Women in the Labor Department after being fired -- "sacked" as she put it -- by President Carter on Friday. The flamboyant former New York representative looked tired and still seemed stunned by it all, although she cracked jokes. "This is a volunteer advisory job. I don't get paid. I do this on my own time. For nothing. So what's to fire?"

Abzug said she was buoyed by the show of solidarity -- 27 members of the 40-member committee resigned after she was fired, and many of her followers are organizing across the country in protest.Her future? "Well," she said with a derisive shrug, "I've got to find myself another big, non-paying job."

It was yet another chapter in the tempestuous and picaresque life of "Battling Bella." A feminist who has alienated many with her "confrontational" style, Abzug is nonetheless such a strong symbol for the women's movement that Carter may be haunted by the press picture of Abzug and Gloria Steinem hugging each other in sisterly commiseration at the firing. If Abzug does not, as a housewife on a local talk show suggested yesterday, "represent us average

"This is a serious breech. We're now going to require action, not words" Abzug said, her voice rising, to get the women's support in 1980. "He may have to go out and get us the ERA."

For some of her critics, Abzug has been synonomous with abrasion. Like many New Yorkers, she wears her brusqueness on her sleeve, and can sound defiantly argumentative even when she is agreeing with you. But she has also been known to cry at being called "unfeminine" or at remarks about her girth.

"When I lose weight," she joked, "I'm going into pin-ups for a living." She has lost 45 pounds recently. Asked if it was easy, she muttered, "Are you crazy? What diet is easy?"

It is that kind of curt "whatdya mean?" answer that has won her some enemies -- but Abzug feels the press has always overplayed it. "I can assure you I did not pound on the table or point my finger or raise my voice to the president."

"Sure, I say things straight out," she said. But so do a lot of men. When a man is that way, they say he is a strong, forthright individual and leader. When a woman is that way, she is 'abrasive' and 'belligerent."

On the Hill, Abzug had the reputation of a tough, demanding boss who could excoriate staffers in front of others. She says, "The men did it 12,000 times more than I."

Abzug flew all night to make it to the White House for the Friday meeting. She believes that the move to fire her was in motion before the women met with Carter that afternoon. Both Abzug and Carmen Delgado Votaw, the other cochairwoman, said they were slipped notes to see Hamilton Jordan as they went into the meeting.

For several weeks previously, the women had been criticizing Carter's proposed budget cuts -- "cut the military budget, not the human budget," they protested. In November, the Women's Advisory Committee canceled a meeting with Carter because it was scheduled for only 15 minutes. Abzug was away when that decision was made and said she tried to change the women's minds about canceling the meeting.

"I figured we would get in there and get more time. I've been working within the structure, in and out of Congress. I have a lot more experience than anyone else on the committee. See, I'm a great negotiator." But the women said no, they would not meet for 15 minutes.

So then Carter talked to Votaw and Abzug on the phone -- for 12 minutes. Abzug used that time to argue that his anti-inflationary policies would hurt women most.

"Eighty percent of the lowest paid are women, they're still getting 60 cents to the man's dollar," Abzug said. "Women have been double the unemployment of men for the last 20 years. I said his program would fall most heavily on women. Carter said, 'It will fall heavy on everybody.' Then he finally said, about the women, 'I suppose you're right.'"

Abzug smiled ironically. "I guess we can talk of ERA. That's clearly our issue. But women and the economy?" She recalled that in December she had a very cordial meeting with presidential adviser Stu Eisenstadt on that subject, and "he agreed that no one had developed a public policy on women in the economy."

So, said Abzug, she was expecting good things on Friday. The committee put out a press release stating their point of view on the economy and women in the work force before the meeting. After the meeting, she said, Jordan hit the ceiling:

"'How dare you write an advance press release before seeing the president?' Ham said to me. Could you imagine just how many times that's been done by groups in Washington? I it was like being in a surrealist movie that had nothing to do with reality. They were so cruel. It was useless."

During the meeting with Carter, as Abzug remembered it, a "very gravelooking president scolded us as being too confrontational. He said we had been 95 percent critical and had not worked with his staff or the cabinet. I felt I had the responsibility to answer. I felt he wasn't getting the right information about us.

"I said we were not critical 95 percent of the time, but that we were in despair over this economic situation and that not once had his staff asked us for advice and that we welcomed meetings with the cabinet."

Then the ax fell.

Abzug said Jordan and Whte House aide Robert Lipshutz asked for her resignation. "I begged for an hour to talk with the committee. They were snapping, snapping, it was awful. I got back to the office and Ham was on the phone saying, 'I have to know this minute. We can't hold the line. A lot of senior staff people have been alerted and it's getting out.'"

Abzug's tough facade disappeared as she said, "I felt so terrible. I had worked so hard for this committee."

Jordan's main complaints she said, were the canceled November meeting and the advance press release.Abzug said that she told Jordan she was not present when the women determined to cancel the November session with the president because of "pressing, personal reasons." She said that Jordan replied, "You should have been there." Abzug said she was giving a speech out West: "I have to make a living."

Another pressing, personal problem these days is her husband's health. Martin Abzug, a New York stock-broker, has had a heart attack but is back at work now.

"He's wonderful," Abzug said. "He was there at our New York meeting. He gets so upset for me. He didn't take this as angrily as he often does my affronts. For one thing, there was this outpouring of all this support."

Asked about the reaction of her daughters, Abzug said, "They're a riot. We have a great relationship. They're my fiercest supporters and my strongest critics. So they got on the phone and said, 'Bella, what did you do now?' And I said, 'You sound like the White House.' Only when they're teasing do they call me Bella. They were soon saying, 'Are you all right, ma? Are you sure you're all right?'"

Both daughters are in their twenties: Eve is an artist and Liz is a lawyer. Abzug laughed as she said, "I'm afraid to say Liz works for the government -- they might fire her."

For her future, Abzug says, "I'm buoyant. That's why I swim so well."

She said, "I remember years ago I was a young lawyer fighting in the South." A 1945 graduate of Columbia Law School, Abzug was in Mississippi in 1950 arguing the appeal of a black man, Willie McGee, convicted of raping a white woman. Editorials talked of lynching McGee and his "white lady lawyer."

As she walked down the hall at the Labor Department, Abzug shrugged, still remembering. "I got my picture in Life then and some friends said, 'Boy, this is worth $50,000 in publicity. I said, 'yeah, $50,000 minus .' That wasn't good publicity back in the 1950s. Being fired by the president today, you never know. It could be the same thing."

As of 4:30 yesterday, the White House had received 385 telegrams supporting Carter's decision and 548 against. The telephone calls ran differently: 268 for his action and 39 against.

Her Manhattan office got 300 letters yesterday.

For the moment, Abzug is still unsure what she is going to do. Having given up her House seat to run for the Senate, she is -- as those out of work and out of office say -- "weighing her options." Those options may include writing another book or running for office.

But the old bravado still remains. "I don't think," she said yesterday, "that I'm going to urn for president... yet !"