Most federal workers will get eight long weekends -- nine, if you count last Friday's snow day here -- this year: Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is a Monday (Jan. 18), as is Washington's Birthday/Presidents Day (Feb. 15), Memorial Day (May 30), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (Sept. 5) and Columbus Day (Oct. 10). Veterans Day is a Friday (Nov. 11).

Because Christmas falls on a Sunday, the following Monday (Dec. 26) will be a government holiday.

The calendar quirk will give federal workers who are on traditonal five-day week, eight-hour-day schedules a taste of what thousands of their colleagues who have been on four-day-week, 10-hour-day tours of duty have been enjoying for years.

Although many agencies have scaled back flexitime programs and four-day-week experiments, there are many people who argue that these programs work well for the government and its customers, if properly managed.

Today's leadoff letter to the Monday Morning Quarterback comes from a McLean man who wants to take the long weekend system one step further in a plan that he says would cut traffic congestion and make life easier for most local residents, even those who don't work for the government.

Here's his suggestion, along with a comment from one critic of time off:If agencies permit employees to work four 10-hour days and have Friday off, it would only shift the homeward-bound rush hour to Thursday evenings.

On summer and holiday weekends, Sunday evening return traffic would still be heavy. This could be remedied by lengthening the weekend to include Mondays.

Half the work force would be scheduled to work four 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, and the rest would be on a Tuesday-through-Friday week, spreading the three-day weekend over four days.

Imagine the decongestion of traffic on the Bay Bridge or on routes to mountains and lakes during the vacation months. Visualize the reduction of the weekend crush for time on the golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools.

Think of the available parking spaces at malls and tourist attractions with consumers spreading their usual weekend over three days instead of two.

I can't see where any group -- employees or employers, transportation services, police, hotels and restaurants, you name them -- would be inconvenienced by such a flexible work plan. It can only be an improvement over the current weekend rat race. Think of fewer Blue Mondays!

One word of caution, however. A four-day work week won't do the overall economy any good unless employees produce during that extra two hours they work Monday through Thursday, or Tuesday through Friday. I don't think America is ready for a 32-hour work week. B.F., McLean

Your columns about federal employees wanting a half-day off before Christmas (which they subsequently got) were too much. When will these "employees" stop whining and get to work? If they wanted a half day off from work, why not just take it? Imagine what would happen if Metro gave its staff half a day off. Or if all the store and service operations were so charitable?

All that federal workers demonstrated by asking for extra time off is that most of them aren't needed and wouldn't be missed if they never went to work. In fact, things might be better if they didn't. Tired Taxpayer In Virginia