Snow, the great leveler in status-conscious Washington, did it again yesterday.

Only a few thousand of this town's 360,000 federal workers, people designated as "essential," had to report for work yesterday.

Many EP's (essential people) don't have big-shot rank. EPs rarely get a mention in the newspapers until they get a 40-year pin, or die, or their house burns down on a slow news day.

EP's don't go on "Meet the Press,"rarely get in "Who's Who," or receive a White House invitation when there is a party for a visiting head of state or, depending on the administration, the opera or rock star of the moment. All they do is their jobs: They keep the federal machine warm or cool, deliver its messages, answer its phones, enforce its laws and stand by for trouble.

The last time Washington shut down on administrative leave because of snow was the big storm of February 1979 that briefly turned us into a suburb of the North Pole.

Administrative leave, which means you get paid whether you come to work or not, was ordered this time because of the snow, and the massive transportation problems caused by the tragic airplane crash that damaged the 14th street bridge, and the Metro subway accident.

Snow puts the high and low on the same elevator. Sometimes the only people in government offices are the big boss and crew, the guards, maintenance people and the head of the cleanup detail and his crew.

If you had taken a walking tour of the government yesterday you would have seen a lot of chiefs, and even more nurses and doctors, communications personnel, heating plant workers, postal employes, law enforcement personnel and the like.

People who don't rate a VIP label on a sunny day find themselves in demand, officially designated as essential, when others are told to stay home and keep out of the way.