Although senior U.S. workers want the option of retiring early, few take the bait when it is offered. So far this year the government has offered early retirement to 2,800 employees. Only 75 have taken it.

The Office of Personnel Management has granted the early-out option 13 times this year, to agencies (mostly Defense Department units) that are facing cutbacks or major reorganizations. Last week it approved an early-out for the Navy's Mare Island shipyard, where, because of budget cuts, about 1,400 workers may be laid off and an additional 320 demoted out of a work force of 8,800 civilians. Officials say that about 1,400 employees would be eligible for early retirement, but they expect only 240 to 350 will actually take it.

On Friday OPM approved an early-out for most of the Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining. Because of a reorganization, about 46 workers are expected to be fired and an additional 40 demoted. About 140 workers are eligible to take the early-out, which begins Aug. 1 and runs through Sept. 30, but only about 30 are expected to take it.

In early-out situations, employees can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age with 25 years of service. Normally the earliest they could retire on immediate pensions is at age 55 with 30 years of service. OPM Underground

Members of the Office of Personnel Management's hole-in-the-wall gang celebrated their 30th anniversary Thursday. As usual, the Boyers, Pa., workers went to their office, a refurbished limestone mine 200 feet underground. Since 1960 it has been the home office of the Records Center staff. The staff keeps watch over more than 10 million federal personnel records. Seven of the original 42 employees are still on the job. Conversation Stopper

As president of the Council of Former Federal Executives, Bun Bray gets some interesting phone calls. Most are from retired executives who retain an interest in personnel management and public service.

Recently, he got a call from a lady who had little use for the federal establishment or its people. She spoke at some length, saying that most of her relatives work for the government and that none of them is worth much, or ever puts in more than four hours a day. Bray, who handled difficult calls as a top congressional aide, thought for a moment. Then he said: "If you will just give me the names {of your relatives} and where they work, I will see that they are all fired!" End of conversation. Fear of Tigers

Never assume anything! The June 5 column discussed a very detailed government study about why employees quit for private-sector jobs. The conclusion seemed obvious. Tongue-in-cheek we asked readers if they thought federal workers fled because:

1) They hated government cafeteria food.

2) They were afraid of being eaten by tigers.

3) The pay was better elsewhere.

No. 3 was supposed to be the obvious answer. But Joan D. Albert, of Silver Spring, responded that No. 2, the tiger option, could apply to some. Turns out she knows what she is talking about. She retired from the National Zoo.