Birds have 'em. Bees have 'em. Even educated fleas seem to have those phone-answering machines. So Carol Vandrey of Silver Spring wasn't too amazed to run into a recording when she called the Copyright Public Information Office at the Library of Congress the other day.

But amazement was back with a vengeance when Carol heard the following:

1, 2, 3, 4

Mary had a little lamb

Its fleece was white as snow

And everywhere that Mary went

The message is about to go

Chunk, chunk, chunk

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Thinking she must have reached a nursery school or a madhouse by mistake, Carol dialed again. Same result. And just as bad as the incomprehensible recording was the fact that it was 4:50 p.m. when Carol tried her calls. A human being should still have been on duty for 10 more minutes.

Well, it's a pleasure (and a relief) to report that neither sanity nor humanity has deserted the copyright office.

At the very moment Carol placed her call, workmen were changing the office's phones. "They were actually in the trunks of the lines and were testing them," said an apologetic Victor Marton, supervisor of the office. "While they were testing, they did not realize they were preempting all incoming calls. This did happen and the woman did get a message like that. She is not crazy."

In fact, Carol may unwittingly have unearthed a magnificent idea.

Why couldn't every federal office offer a sprightly verse as its off-hours message? What if . . .

FOR THE WHITE HOUSE:

Ring around the Rose Garden

Pocketful of Teflon

Deficits, deficits

We'll call you back

FOR THE PENTAGON:

Subs be nimble, jets be quick

We'll call you back at Oh-Five-Six

FOR THE SUPREME COURT:

Lawyers, lawyers, quite contrary

How do your arguments go?

We'll call you back by 8:15

Can you appeal that? No!

FOR THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:

Tip's fortunes hot

Tip's fortunes falter

Tip will be glad to call you back

Unless your name is Walter

FOR THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT:

A-tisket, a-tasket,

Another head-of-state casket

I'll call you back from Air Force Two

But I wish I had something to do

FOR DAVID STOCKMAN'S OFFICE:

David Stockman spoke in a hall

David Stockman touched off a great squall

So all of Ron's horses and all of Ron's men

Won't get me to call you -- or Congress -- again

And in the Sauce For The Gander Department . . .

FOR BOB LEVEY'S OFFICE:

I'm a busy typist, short and stout

Ring me up, and I am out

But I have a notion you might like

Why don't you try Causey, first name Mike?