The Virginia Employment Commission, hard pressed by federally imposed slashes of its budget, may well help prove what comedian and social commentator Will Rogers said a half century ago: "We'll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poorhouse in an automobile."

The commission, reluctantly consolidating two Northern Virginia offices at Alexandria and Seven Corners into one, has chosen a location in the Fairfax County community of Merrifield that has only sketchy public transit service, forcing most clients to get there by car.

For example, according to Metro, an Alexandria resident needing to transact business, including an application for unemployment compensation, at the new location would have to leave King and Washington streets at 7:51 a.m. to arrive at Merrifield by 9 a.m. and, after spending just an hour and a half there, would get back to Alexandria just before noon. The fare: $1.15 to Merrifield (in rush hour), 65 cents back, a total of $1.80.

Metro's Earl Fawbush, at this column's request, used a computer to devise this optimum bus schedule. He said a casual rider would have to work hard to figure the intricate transfers and schedules to do it for himself.

The Virginia Employment Commission's Northern Virginia manager, Wesley Caison, said the decision to trim to one full-line regional office, plus a city-subsidized job placement office in Alexandria, was painful, "but we could no longer afford the rental" of dual facilities.

"We made sure it the new Merrifield location is on public transportation," he said, although bus service is typically at half the frequency of Alexandria or Seven Corners.

The old locations will close Aug. 26, with Merrifield opening Aug. 31.