Former Mayor Walter E. Washington apparently is having no difficulty adjusting to life without city hall.

"It is nice no longer having to return phone calls when I don't want to," te former mayor said last week. "When they called me and asked me about the snow, I asked, 'What snow?' When they called me and asked me about the school strike, I asked, 'What strike?'

Don't worry about me, I'm doing all right."

Smiling, relaxed and basking in his new freedom, Washington was honored last week by the D.C. chapter of the NAACP. About 150 persons attended the awards dinner at the Washington Hilton, where W. Montague Cobb, national president of the NAACP, also was honored.

The former mayor's successful transition to private life was noted by Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I of D.C. Superior Court.

"I've never seen you looking so young, so radiant," said Moultrie. "I shook your hand, and you had the shake of one who has money."

Moultrie, who presented the NAACP service award to Washington, praised his contributions during his term as mayor.

"Few men have accomplished in a lifetime what Walter Washington accomplished in 10 years," Moultrie said. "Few men walked with kings and associated with royalty yet kept common touch. . . Few men can boast that they received a burning city and left it on its way to recovery."

Washington, the first elected mayor of the District, is credited with helping the city get back on its feet after the devastating riots of the 1960s and guiding the city through its first years of home rule. But Washingtonhs administration also was criticized for alleged mismanagement. In his last years as mayor, his administration came under attack after investigations of at least two high-ranking city officials.

Since losing his reelection bid to Marion Barry, the former mayor has joined the New York City law firm of Burns, Jackson, Miller and Summit as its resident partner in Washington.

At the awards dinner, a beaming Washington showed no reticence in offering a little advice to the city and spelling out what he has been doing since he ended his mayoral duties.

Referring tot he widespread criticism of his administration, Washington quoted from a song sung earlier in the program by the D.C. Youth Chorale. "I've been 'buked, I've been scorned, but I ain't gonna lay my religion down."

"You are always going to have your defeats," Washington said. "You learn to go on from there. I got kicked out of officer after 12 years, and it is not so bad.

"It is nice out here-no one told me the city is on a boom. They haven't taken my name off the new buildings - I shouldn't say anything - I kind of like it."

Washington's new role as a self-described "elder statesman" was clearly evident during his address. He began advising the crowd about the future of the District.

"The city cannot find itself in terms of home rule until it has control of the budget . . . It is a new sophistication you have to fight. It is not like the Bull Connors, it is sophisticated."

Washington said that city residents must avoid fighting each other and get away from pulling each other down like "crabs in abarrel."

"No one could have been more devastating htan I to the city, because I knew so much. But I chose to support the (new Barry) administration.

"If the NAACP did not get support after losing some of its initial cases, There would not have been a Brown decision."

The other honoree, Cobb, received his award after the Rev. Edward A. Hailes, president of the D.C. chapter of the NAACP, lauded his efforts toward advancing the cause of the NAACP.

During the presentations, the dignitaries at the head table included Washington's wife, Bennetta Washington; Latonia Lindsey, Miss NAACP of the D.C. chapter; the Rev. Cecil Bishop, pastor of John Wesley AME Zion Church; Lillian Adkins Sedgwick, general assistant to Mayor Marion Barry; Arrington Dixon, City Council chairman; James Dyke, special assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale; the Rev. John D. Bussey, of Bethesda Baptist Church, and Betty Holton, the mistress of ceremonies.

Several days after the awards presentation, the former mayor told a reporter he had received phone calls from at least two people who attended the dinner concerning his speech-specifically the section about pulling each other down "like crabs in a barrel."

"They (the callers) thought I was talking about them," he said. The mayor paused, reflected and then added, "Maybe I was." CAPTION: Picture, Walter E. Washington in his new law offices. By Linda Wheeler-The Washington Post