Our federal government came up with a remarkable notion a little more than a year ago. Noting that federal employes are under increasing stress in the workplace, the Office of Personnel Management developed a list of guidelines to help fedsies cope.

One guideline was: "Fall in love."

Now, I hate to argue with my Uncle Sam. But in every office where I've ever done time, lovers don't reduce stress. They create it -- for themselves and for those around them. I mean, what is love but that certain tension in the pit of the gut, anyway?

But being a patriotic sort, I thought I would give OPM and all the federal workers it manages the benefit of the doubt. Let them have a year in which to experiment, I figured, as I filed "Fall in love" under LATE SPRING '87, and we'll see how they did.

The answer is that they don't know how they did.

Sharon Wells, an OPM public affairs specialist, said there has been "no follow-up study" to determine whether federal workers have fallen in love by the dozen in the last year. Nor is there any information about whether those who have fallen in love feel less stressed as a result.

Sharon noted that falling in love was only one of several stress-fighting strategies OPM suggested. Others included laughing, shifting tough decisions to a coworker, developing new interests, writing notes to yourself about what's bugging you, experimenting with an unconventional work schedule, playing a sport and breaking into a "sparkle smile" (which OPM defines as "twinkling inwardly" and drawing an imaginary breath through imaginary holes in the bottoms of your feet).

Personally, I'd rather fall in love than breathe through my feet. Does the federal work force agree?

Again, Sharon says OPM has no idea whether more federal employes tried "sparkle smiles," or whether more tried falling in love. "There's no way to gauge it," she said.

Obviously, folks, we need a study.

We need to commission a great behavioral scientist at one of the nation's leading universities to test the popularity of The Love Quotient and The Breathing-Through-Your-Feet Quotient.

Yes, the study would be an early contender for one of Sen. William Proxmire's Golden Fleece Awards. But would the study be any sillier than the OPM suggestions?

Here's a friendship that deserves a public hurrah.

On that memorable day in 1981 when the American hostages were released by Iran, a woman named Marian Reed was so delighted at the news that she decided to do something a little rash.

She picked up the phone in her home in Wales and started calling numbers at random in Washington, D.C. The idea was to say congratulations to the first Washingtonian she happened to reach.

That first Washingtonian turned out to be Mary Nooney, a retired secretary who lives in Arlington (yes, sticklers, if you dial Area Code 202 plus any seven numbers from Wales, you are just as likely to reach a Northern Virginia number or a suburban Maryland number as a District of Columbia number).

Mary and Marian have since become the best of friends. Marian has visited Mary in Arlington several times, and is about to do so again. Meanwhile, Marian (who is an avid traveler) writes to Mary from all over the world.

How nice -- and how rare -- that something so positive could arise from an incident that was so negative.

Good idea of the week from a gent in Silver Spring:

" 'Junk' telephone calls? The ideal thing on a home telephone," he writes, "would be a button to press which would add 50 cents to the bill of the calling number -- half the money to go to the telephone company and half to the United Way.

"If the huckstering caller refused to pay these charges, his service would be discontinued . . . .

"They laughed at Fulton's steamboat."

Coincidence of this or any other week:

"M.F." went to the Sears store in Springfield, where you have to take a number. M.F. did. It was number 78. And at the moment that "78" came chunk-a-chunking out of the dispenser, the clerk was waiting on the holder of number 74.

M.F. went back to the same store four hours later. M.F. again took a number.

Again, it was number 78.

And again, at that moment, the clerk was waiting on the holder of number 74.

Hugh Gillespie says this year's Indianapolis 500 was a mediocre race. But it had an Unser-passed finish.