Several years ago, a syndicated columnist said he wasn't afraid of a strike by government workers because nobody would notice if they didn't show up for work.

With most of the federal work force facing furloughs of up to 22 days this year, we may be ready to test his theory: Would anybody notice if the government closed?

In fact, a shutdown of government services won't affect you in the least. Unless you:

Get a monthly Social Security check.

Fly in a commercial or private aircraft.

Plan to visit any national park.

Don't mind if bank robbers clean out your checking or savings account.

Are among the 26 million people a year who visit the National Air and Space Museum, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

Use the beach at Assateague, Va., or like to visit Great Falls, Md.

Have season tickets to the Kennedy Center.

Think you or a friend or relative may need the services of a Veterans Administration hospital.

Like to eat clean, uncontaminated meat and poultry.

Can laugh off a long delay in receiving your next tax refund check.

Fancy the notion that Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park could become a speedway free of Park Police or that Haines Point could return to being the world's most scenic nighttime drug market.

Had thought about camping at Yosemite National Park.

Won't be bothered by a three-month shutdown of some popular places ranging from Mammoth Cave, Ky., to the Frederick Douglass home in Washington.

Remain unconcerned if the toxic chemical site discovered in your back yard is allowed to cook a little longer.

All of the above and a lot more are in the offing if federal agencies are forced to furlough employees because of the failure of Congress and the White House to agree on a budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Without a budget, the furloughs would hit agencies, then Congress would start exempting them one by one: Defense (with 50 percent of the work force) then the VA. Next, air traffic controllers. How about Social Security payment specialists? The FBI, CIA, IRS, meat inspectors, Customs agents? The Border Patrol? If the important functions are exempted, there wouldn't be many people left to furlough. So what are we doing here?

Add to all the furlough horror stories for ordinary citizens a bit of hardship for our nation's political/business/media elite. Washington's power crowd could be forced to take in its cummerbund a notch or two.

Possible trouble in store for the local rich and famous: A National Park Service budget memo says the agency would have to cut housekeeping functions at the Kennedy Center. That means furloughing the maintenance crew. That, in turn, it says, could result "in the probability of forcing a reduced performance schedule." Also, the garage might be closed. That would force people in

dress-shoes-not-made-for- walking to hoof it to the reduced opera season.