There was some moaning, some griping and a little bit of indignation in private. Bit it was not the sort of thing that top-level government managers like to talk about publicly.

So most of the career civil servants on the fifth floor of the Health and Human Srvices building eventually swallowed their supergrade pride and threw up their hands in casual resignation this week when the government locked the doors of 33 private office restrooms and took away the keys.

"I just don't understand why they did," said one deputy assistant secretary with a little longer than his name. "They could save a lot more money by doing something other than closing the restrooms."

"I was shocked," said another, who came back from lunch to find workmen on their knees changing the bathroom lock. "I asked them what on earth they were doing," he said.

The General Services Administration, the federal governments landlord, said yesterday that the bathrooms were closed simply as an economy move -- that the building's 61 maintenance employes were spread too thin trying to keep the 34 private bathrooms cleaned daily.

But for the career bureaucrats -- all GS levels 16, 17, and 18 -- the private bathrooms were a symbol of rank, in a city that judges power in perks. Private bathrooms rank somewhere alongside chauffeured limousines as a person privilege, and for these supergrades, the loss of the private privies was a direct slap in the face.

These bureaucrats inherited their bathrooms several years ago, when the even-higher level brass moved in to posher quarters in the new Hubert H. Humphrey building.

The problem for the supergrades is that the bathrooms came with the offices, not with the rank, according to Wilson Gale, GSA manager.

Federal property management regulations are quite specific on the question of bathroom rights. Only executive levels one-through-five are are entitled to a bathroom, and the "executive cleaning" that comes with them, Gale said.

Supergrades are not entitled to bathrooms, and should only get a "level six" cleaning, he said, meaning, for example a daily dump of the garbage cans, but vacuuming only once a week.

Gale said he has one employe responsible for cleaning the fifth-floor bathrooms. "Just the eight public facilities on the main hallway would constitute an eight-hour work day," Gale said.

Gale said that cleaningg the additional 34 executive bathrooms required additional people, spreading his 61 employes too thin. "It's a snowball effect, and it just got out of hand."

"It was never clean in here anyway," one of the locked-out executives said of his erstwhile private restroom. "It was always dirty inside."

So for the supergrade, being cast out of their private bathrooms means some severe readjustments in the kind of lifestyle they once enjoyed as top-level bureaucrats.

For instance, it means walking down the hallway to the public bathrooms, and having to use the same facilities as the lowest level clerks and secretaries.

For others, it means a loss of the convenience of being able to shower at the office after a lunch-time jog or a morning set on the tennis courts.

One secretary on the fifth floor said he already started to notice pin-striped executives rushing down the main hallway.

But even Gale admitted that locking the bathrooms shut was a drastic move.

"I would have loved to keep them openif I could have," Gale said. "But if we left them open, they (the bureaucrats) would have continued using them. If I could have gotten a commitment from them that they wouldn't use the bathrooms, I wouldn't have locked them up."

Thirty-three of the 34 bathrooms were locked late yesterday. The last bathroom was still open because the office's occupant was away for the week, and the occupants of the adjoining office refused to allow the workers to walk through their office to get to the bathroom.