Yesterday the rush hour lasted all day.

At six in the morning Anna Walker stood stranded near a Metro bus stop at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, where she had been dropped by one of the last buses in operation as the Metro strike began. "I can't get any bus to work. I can't get any bus home," she said, her voice rising with rage. "They knew they were going to strike but they never told the people!"

Seven hours later, still other people were waiting at the same stop, hoping - as they stood sweating in the heat and humidity - for rides they had gradually realized were never going to come. Many had been standing there for hours, or forlornly sitting on the sidewalk, unsure of what to do, whom to call, how to pay for transportation to their work or to their homes.

"It's a terrible thing to be in the streets and not have the finance to get home," said Mildred G. Wright, an out-of-work hospital administrator. "It's a terrible thing. A terrible thing."

Throughout the morning and late into the afternoon men in three-piece suits could be seen hitchhiking to work. Others, their coats slung over their shoulders , trudged across the bridges from Virginia.

At Connecticut Avenue and Porter Street NW, a woman who finally caught a ride downtown on a tourist bus offered a philosophical view of the situation. "It's a urban natural selection process," she said.

People all over metropolitan Washington yesterday were learning just how much they have come to depend on its developing mass transit system.

As the strike abruptly shut down virtually all Metro buses and the entire Metro rail system yesterday morning traffic james stretched for miles, the air pollution index climbed, and thousands of commuters were forced to use their cars, their feet, their wits and improvisation rather than their accustomed farecards and bus transfers to make their way in and out of the city.

Downtown parking lots became madhouses "I tell you that strike really did us in, man," gasped parking attendant Don Shearer. His unbuttomed, sweat pouring off his face, he was taking - at 2 in the afternoon - the first break he had had since he opened the doors of the PMI lot at 424 11th St. NW at 6:45 in the morninng.

The lot's manager, Martin Powell, said that twice since then he had turned away lines of cars that stretched around the block.

"People were paying me money to get their cars off the street," interjected Shearer. "I'd tell 'em the lot was full and they'd slip me a couple of bucks to get their cars. They were parking them by fireplugs and everything. They'd just give me the money and give the keys and take off."

"We had a woman come in this morning," said Powell, "who told us she'd forgot how to park her car. She said she hadn't been in a parking lot in 30 years."

"Those people," said Shearer, "were definitely desperate."

Tow trucks were out in force towing and starting up cars that overheated and starting up cars that overheated in stalled traffic. "It's taking five minutes to go a block," said William [WORD ILLEGIBLE] president of the Call Carl Towing Service. "Given the combination of heat and traffic, anything on the borderline is going to junk out."

Taxis were everywhere, but rarely seemed to stop. "Some of these cab-drivers get awfully independent when you need them," muttered Health, Education and Welfare employe Mary P. [WORD ILLEGIBLE] , who had been trying to hail a taxi for 30 minutes at the corner of 4th Street and Independence Avenue SW. And if I do get downtown," she wondered, "how am I going to get back?"

Though many cabs were filled with people, few of the drivers seemed happy about the situation.

"It's terrible," said driver Lawrence J. Slaughter Jr. as he edged toward Capitol Hill at midday. "There's plenty of business out here. You just can't get around town."

"People say 'Oh I know the cabdrivers are racking it up now.' But a cabdriver can't make no money sitting in traffic just looking at people. I had [WORD ILLEGIBLE] guy this morning and we sat in traffic for an hour and 15 minutes. I got a dollar and a dime."

Some commuters were able to overcome the traumas of the seemingly endless rush hour by taking their usual carpools, or by hurriedly improvising them yesterday morning.

As the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] stretched out near the bus stop at Connecticut and Brandywine Street NW yesterday morning, some people hopelessly waiting, private autos began to stop and offer rides. "I'm going down Connecticut if someone needs a lift," a man in a Maryland car shouted. "The buses are on strike."

[WORD ILLEGIBLE] offered a woman in another car.

In Virginia the express lane on Interstate 325 gave drivers an added incentive to pick up riders, since carpools with four or more people were allowed to use it. Some drivers reportedly profited from the situation - momentarily as well as temporally - but others were not so lucky.

"I think people are distrustful," said Robert Kovacs, a program analyst at HEW. "A friend of mine was driving in by himself from Annandale but he kept stopping at bus stops telling people the buses weren't running. Nobody would believe him."

One government employe, a young woman who moved to the area only a couple of months ago, had always ridden the subway into the city before yesterday. When she found herself driving, she didn't know the way. "I picked up a hitchhiker," she said, "I figured he'd know the way. Then he got me totally lost."

At Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW, a Gaithersburg man plodded north toward his Dupont Circle office with a suit jacket over his shoulder. He had arrived at Union Station by train to find the subway closed down, he said. After that he caught an unairconditioned taxi, which he abandoned as it sat in traffic near the White House.

Arnac Thomas, a stock clerk at Morton's Warehouse in Crystal City, left his house at 6:45 a.m. and walked, and walked. A reporter encountered him at 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW an hour later. He was still walking.

The strike almost completely dissrupted the plans of the Longest Walk Indians, in their fifth day of political and religious activities here. Many had depended on Metro charter buses to shuttle them downtown from their encampment at Greenbelt Park in Prince George's County. Finally their leaders and U.S. Park Police arranged for a fleet of Capitol Cab taxis and 10 chartered Trailways buses to carry them back and forth to Washington.

Many major employers, including federal agencies, reported some tardiness but no major impact on operations from the transit strike. Geico, which charters five Metro buses to bring employes from fringe parking areas such as Tysons Corner, said that only two of the buses showed up yesterday morning. Even so, "we didn't find work was slowed down," said Bob Jackson, a spokesman.

A Civil Service spokesman said no special policies such as allowing workers to leave early had been implemented. At the Civil Service Administration itself, job attendance was not far from normal, said a spokesman, "but a lot of us don't know how we're getting home." At the Labor Department, in at least two major offices - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the employment standards department - about 50 percent of the workers were late.

At Woodward & Lothrop "a lot of employees, particularly from the Virginia side, were as late as two hours because of the traffic tie-ups," said spokesman Joanne Steller. Even so, the stores were adequately staffed when they opened at 10 a.m., she said.

Woodies felt the strike in other ways at their downtown store, where 25 per cent of their customers come to shop by subway, according to a recent survey. "Sales are way off, but it looks like a one-day thing, so we can recover," she said.

Once they finally arrived in the city, many commuters decided to turn around and go back out as soon as possible. Mayor Washington allowed all nonessential city employes to leave work at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon. By then the tide of the traffic jam was changing, moving out of the city.

By 5:30 p.m. D.C. police helicopter photos showed the bridge across the Potomac reasonably free of congestion. By 6:45 the policemen who had been directing traffic downtown were gone, and traffic was back to normal. No one could be seen at bus stops.

The after effects remained, however, in a residue of worry about what will happen today, and frustrated anger at the developments yesterday, even on the part of tourists.

Marion Shake of Indianapolis had to take her daughter sightseeing around the mall yesterday morning without the company of her husband. They had left him hopelessly driving for hours looking for a parking place.

The Shakes said they would leave yesterday, though originally they had planned to stay until today. "We'd like," said Mrs. Shake, "to never come back."