Yesterday's snow-inspired federal holiday was a time of mental anguish for some of this town's 350,000 government workers. With the day off came a day-long battle of ego versus comfort.

The good news was that, thanks to the heavy snowfall on George Washington's Birthday (a genuine federal holiday), the government was shut down by the weather, resulting in the first four-day weekend in official memory. (Unofficially, as all locals know, this city often operates at less than 100 percent effort.)

Snow stuns us always. And "it ain't the heat, it's the humidity" is the standard summer greeting here. Washington has been partly closed many times, but rarely with the official blessing of a Condition 3 alert. That, in important bureaucratic terms, made it official and legal to be sitting home.

The bad news was that "essential" personnel were told to report for duty. That is where ego, the staff of life in Washington, came into play. Does one stay home, protecting life, limb and your car insurances rates? Or does one assume a my-country-needs-me expression and slither down the Mount Vernon Parkway, shoot the 16th Street slalom, or snake up and down Riggs Road and head for the office?

On Monday, at least, most people who worked got paid holiday rates. Yesterday, people who worked were paid in the cheapest -- and yet most valuable -- coin of them all. Somebody on high said they were needed, with the implication that the republic would surely fall if they didn't fall down a few times on the way to work. After all, even President Carter sports a stylish gash on his forehead from the snow.

So, if you made it in yesterday, color yourself either dedicated or a VIP, or both. If you did not make it in, welcome to the warm, silent and happy majority.

Soreheads stay home: WJLA-TV, which did a super job of keeping the area posted on weather conditions, ran an early-morning bulletin yesterday that both amused and bewildered. Advising federal workers of the blessed Condition 3 situation, it said that "critical" people should report for work. Later, the word was changed to "essential" so there would be no mistakes causing the wrong types to come in.

William Lucy, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, will talk about cost-cutting Proposition 13 at a Feb. 28 luncheon. AFSCME believes the government cutback trend will harm citizens and vital services, not to mention jobs of public employes. The session is sponsored by the Society for Public Administration. Call 377-5930 for time and place.

Jobs: Harry Diamond Labs wants a grade 9 or 11 personnel staffing specialist for temporary duty. Either part time or full time. Send applications to Lydia Bonine, 2880 Powder Mill Road, Adelphi, Md. 20783.

Federal Home Loan Bank Board needs a grade 15 accounting officer and GS-13/14 budget officer. Applications to Terry Prescott, 1700 G St. NW 20552.

Statisticians: Environmental Protection Agency has five jobs at grades 11-13. Call Roz Simms at 755-6841.

Electrical engineers: Fort Belvoir wants them (power experience) at grades 5-13. Call (703) 664-6466.

Attorney-adviser: Navy is looking for someone at the grade 12 level with a background in military legislation. Call 694-4441.

Position classification specialist: There is a grade 9 or 11 vacancy at Treasury. Call Karen Messmore on 566-8301.