"What does your father do for a living? Nothing! He works for the government !" -- A joke once popular with Washington school children.

"My aged mother in New York thinks I play the piano in a house of ill fame. I never had the heart to tell her I was with the government ." -- Confession of a former Office of Management and Budget official to a reporter

"I'm from the government and I am here to help you ." -- One of the three greatest lies a man can tell a woman.

Tired of that kind of stuff? Sick of reading that you are an overpaid, underworked drone, probably a second son (or daughter) who sought security with Uncle Sam rather than adventure in private enterprise? Fed up with editorial cartoons depicting bureaucrats as faceleff sloths, or maniacs on the loose? Consider the following:

Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was a bureaucrat, a GS16 step 7 making $30,000 a year when he took that one giant step for mankind. He got paid every two weeks, sometimes found the personel department impossible, and was as typical a civil servant as possible for an ex-test pilot being trained for outer space.

William Faulkner, the author, did some of his best writing while dispensing stamps to customers at a tiny Mississippi post office. In fact, he did so much writing that when he was asked to leave government service he reportedly countered: "Good. Now I won't be at the beck and call of every SOB with three cents." (Stamps were cheaper in those days).

Richard M. Nixon wanted to be a Treasury Department agent, but went into the law, then politics, instead.

All this is by way of saying, on a Monday morning, that if you ever get down in the dumps about being a fed, arm yourself with the latest copy of Achievements 1980, the latest report on the government's incentive awards program. According to this slick publication (with cover photos from the Voyager space probe), the faceless drones whom press and politicians kick around did little things around the office last year that saved the taxpayers half a billion dollars.

For their thoughts and help they got $44 million in suggestion and work awards. The booklet is put out by the Office of Personnel Management. Unlike most government puff publications, it doesn't contain a portrait of the administrator, or a painting of the president slaying a dragon or surrounded by happy (rented) children. The only president mentioned, in fact, is Eisenhower.

One of the photos, an aerial shot of a group of feds, dares to show (if you have a magnifying glass) two high-level Democratic appointees who are no longer officially with us.

The publication is worth reading. It tells stories one rarely reads, hears or sees, some of the good stuff that is going on in government. The kind of thing the ex-budget bureau official who passed as a bawdy house piano player would have been happy to send home to mother. You might want to take a look at it, or send a copy to a grumpy antigovernment uncle or member of Congress. The people who put it out are at 632-4596.