My colleague Bensinger was sitting at his roll-top desk, reading the morning paper.

As I passed, he called out in an angry voice, "Did you see this story about the latest government atrocity?"

"No," I said. "What happened?"

"Let me read you the first two paragraphs," he said.

In stentorian tones he read: "The federal government stores enough furniture to fill the Pentagon and take care of government needs for 10 years while it continues to buy $200 million in new furniture each year, a Senate hearing was told yesterday.

"The dust-covered, forgotten furniture -- some in unopened cartons, some used and some in need of slight repair -- is stored at 76 warehouse locations in the Washington area alone, according to data developed by government auditors."

"Hey, that's great," I said happily. "We're doing better than I thought.

If we have 76 warehouses full of furniture in the Washington area alone, it's a pretty good guess that we have hundreds more in other cities. Right?"

"You sound pleased," Bensinger said in surprise. "Whose side are you on?"

"I am a loyal, patriotic American citizen," I said proudly. "I'm for preparedness. 'Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.' That's what I always say. We must make sure that this country is never caught short again." a

"You mean like the oil shortage?" Bensinger asked.

"Precisely," I said. "Suppose war were to break out and we were cut off from our entire foreign supply of swivel chairs. Can you imagine trying to fight a war without swivel chairs? Or file cabinets?"

"I see what you mean," Bensinger said. "If you were to look into it, I'll bet you'd find that most of our paper clips come from Japan now. Suppose an enemy fleet cut our sea lanes."

"Even worse," I said, "suppose the Japanese teamed up with our enemies and sent them our entire allocation of paper clips?"

"And staples," he said glumly. "We'd be in a real mess. Heaven only knows which countries supply our memo forms and carbon paper now."

"I'm glad you're so perceptive," I said. "A lot of people these days just don't understand why it's necessary to warehouse a 10-year stockpile of office furniture."

"Yeah," he said, "but there are two things about the furniture stockpile that I really don't understand all that well."

"Which two things?" I asked.

"Well, first of all" he said, "if it's so important to our national security to keep a good supply of office furniture on hand at all times, why does the government bury so much usable furniture in landfills?"

"Don't be petty," I said. "The whole bill comes to only $200 million a year. What's the second thing you don't understand?"

"Why," he asked, "do they have to take so much of that $200 million out of my paycheck?"

"Bensinger," I said, "You'd better do something about that persecution complex of yours." TOMORROW'S THE DAY

Meteorologist Frank Forrester of the U. S. Geological Survey is a man who draws comfort from contemplation of "the orderlines of nature as seen in the movements of heavenly bodies and the rhythm of the seasons."

The value of the dollar and the yen may fluctuate, and the price of gold may bounce around like a loose football in the Dallas backfield, but Frank reminds us that "the earth, the sun, the moon and the planets move with eternal precision."

Example: At precisely 6:10 tomorrow morning, the sun will reach its southernmost point in the sky. "That moment will mark the winter solstice, or the astronomical beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere. At the same moment, the summer season will begin for all areas below the equator.

"And neither you nor th ayatollah can do anything about it." ALWAYS GLAD TO HELP

Rep. E. B. Shuster (R-Pa.) has decided to seek " a higher Republican leadership position." He's a candidate to become Republican Whip, and has included me among those from whom he solicits support.

I remember Shuster clearly. For many years, I have been working for passage of a Youth Camp Safety Act that would set federal safety standards for summer camps.

At a key hearing years ago, Shuster rushed in just in time to compliment a constituent who testified, then left, and heard no more testimony. Later, he opposed the bill and voted for more years of "study," to make sure that children really are dying beacuse of the lack of federal safety standards. Today, years later, the House is still studying and the children are still dying.

I wouldn't support Shuster if his sole opponent were the ayatollah.