Unlike George Bush, who is rapidly picking top aides, Dan Quayle has yet to make major staffing decisions in a transition period marked chiefly by meetings with conservatives and others seeking his ear.

The turtle-like pace of Quayle's transition, aides say, reflects that a politician moving from the legislative to the executive branch of government inevitably needs some educating.Moreover, the vice president-elect apparently is in no hurry to make appointments without Bush's acquiescence.

"He's not going to rush it," said Dan Evans, the head of Quayle's transition team whose friendship with the Indiana senator goes back nearly 20 years.

Quayle's transition team operates from a white, federal-style town house off Pennsylvania Avenue near the Old Executive Office Building where Quayle eventually will work as vice president.

The town house customarily is set aside for the use of former presidents, and the walls are adorned with photographs of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. The quarters are elegant, if cramped, with barely enough room for Secret Service agents posted in the narrow hallways. Press aides on the second floor must move to the lobby if the senator wishes to use the conference room that serves as their makeshift office.

Those drawbacks aside, Evans says Quayle's transition is moving ahead as it should and Quayle is selecting his staff "in consultation with President-elect Bush and his staff."

"He isn't waiting for approval or disapproval, but in keeping with the collegiality of the decision-making process, decisions will not be made in a vacuum," Evans said in a recent interview.

Bush moved quickly to pick his chief of staff, John Sununu, and many of his top Cabinet officials. An announcement on Quayle's chief of staff, who will head a team of roughly 100 people, is expected in early December.

Evans himself is said not to be in the running, nor are any of the top "handlers" that traveled with Quayle during the campaign. Many of them, veterans of previous White House jobs, have said they now prefer private life. Evans won't say whether Quayle is looking for a Washington insider, Indiana crony or someone from his Senate staff.

Dozens of "high-quality resumes" and hundreds of unsolicited resumes have come into the transition office, Evans says, but Quayle is "educating himself on the executive branch before he makes his staffing decisions."

And although Quayle's staff organization will be patterned after Bush's vice presidential office, there is one top adviser who doesn't appear on any official flow chart. That is Marilyn Quayle, the senator's wife, who occupies an office in the transition building and who probably will have space in the vice presidential office as well.

"There is no adviser senior to her," Evans says.

Quayle's workday usually begins shortly after 7 a.m. when he arrives to prepare for breakfast meetings. It ends 12 or 13 hours later after more meetings, perusal of briefing papers and an occasional black-tie dinner.

His meetings have read like a roster of the conservative elite: Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner; outgoing Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y.; conservative columnists George Will, William F. Buckley Jr. and William Safire; former United Nations ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation.

Evans rejects the notion that Quayle is being used by the right to further its agenda for the incoming administration. The conservatives, he says, were simply "the first ones to call."

"Dan Quayle is a conservative, but he is the instrument of no particular group," Evans says.

"I don't think he'll be carving out his own agenda. His agenda will be set by the assignments the president gives him."

Aides hope that the transition will mark the beginning of the end of Quayle's image problem. Beset during the campaign by questions about his military service, academic record and personal life, Quayle became what many felt was a laughing stock. He was portrayed by Democrats as unqualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Even some in his own party were known to agree.

Quayle has become the butt of jokes on television and fodder for editorial cartoonists. Political pundits predicted Quayle would be relegated during the Bush administration to a largely ceremonial job of attending political gatherings and state funerals.