In the second half of the second chapter of Going Postal, Moist gets a better sense of what state the Post Office is in. Spoiler: it’s an even worse mess than he thought it was. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Have we ever encountered a mess—both literal and spiritual—as bad as this in the entirety of the Discworld series???
The second half of this chapter is not just a spectacle of messiness, though, and I’m intrigued by the little mysteries that Pratchett is seeding in the text. (And look, I still don’t know why Mrs. Cake is around here. What does she get out of this place? Why that message? WHY FOG, I STILL DON’T GET IT.) It’s not just worldbuilding, though that is still a vital part of this. There are hints of future plots to come littered about this building, and all of it is overshadowed by the biggest mystery of all:
What the hell happened to the Post Office?
Groat later claims it is hubris, and perhaps he is not wrong. There’s also some blame laid on the clacks system, which fascinates me because that’s such a deeply relevant conversation. Did another technology arrive that improved upon the old system so much that we should just let the older one die? I’d argue that this isn’t the case here, as there is still a strong need for the delivery of letters and packages on the Disc, and clacks provide a service that works for certain types of communication. Blaming the clacks feels like an easy target, you know?
I imagine, then, that there are a lot of clues hidden here as to what actually transpired. Those damn regulations are important to something, right? Why is it that Groat and Stanley are so dead-set on following all those rules to the letter, but have not delivered or properly accepted a single piece of mail in years? Beyond that, though, there are so many other red flags. Why is it that Groat is so obsessed with the past? He speaks of the glory days of the Post Office; he references Chief Postal Inspector Rumbelow with something akin to veneration; he makes excuses about having mail “pushed” upon him so much by his superiors, despite that he just said that his boss took no bullshit. Why would Rumbelow flip out over tampered mail but not chronically undelivered mail? It makes no sense to me! And like Moist, I thought it was obvious that Groat was lying by omission, that he was desperate not to tell Moist the truth. And why? If Moist is here to resurrect this service, wouldn’t Groat be pleased about that?
Of course, it doesn’t help that, just like Moist, I cannot figure out why this man is the best person for the job. Mr. Pump can’t shed any light on all this, and we find that out after discovering that he was LITERALLY an underwater pump for TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY YEARS, so it’s not like he’s up-to-date on Ankh-Morpork. HE’S BEEN A LITTLE BUSY. All Moist has to work with is what he observes—and what he’s observed is a goddamn nightmare—and what Groat tells him.
Which leads me to that. Because Pratchett switches over to Groat’s POV, and through that, the truth is hinted at again. We know he’s lying; I’m not questioning that at this point. It’s what the lies are that concern me! So, there’s the “ceremony” that Groat and Stanley partake in, in which they stare at the image of a “god.” That god is styled after Mercury/Hermes, which makes sense, given that this is the postal service. (Bless the joke about the fig leaf, for the record.) I don’t quite get why this is a ceremony, but it’s not actually the most confusing thing here. That absolutely belongs to this bit:
“Stanley! It’s just a statue! Don’t get excited! Calm down! You don’t want to upset… them.”
Stanley hung his head.
“They’ve been… whispering to me again, Mr. Groat,” he confided in a low voice.
“Yes, Stanley. They whisper to me, too.”
UM. OKAY. WHAT. Who??? Oh god, is there something terrible living in this massive pile of letters??? Or perhaps the letters themselves? I suggest that because Stanley says he “kept seeing the writin’,” which I assume refers to the writing on the letters? Look, Ankh-Morpork is weird as hell, THIS IS POSSIBLE. But there’s another little clue here that might suggest why this problem has gone on for so long:
“They never listen, and then what happens? They find out the hard way.”
And I assume that Mr. Mutable’s death is that “hard way.” So, other people tried to be the Postmaster General, but they were killed by… whatever is currently alive in the piles of unsent letters. So perhaps this industry didn’t die, so to speak, but became alive in an entirely different way. What if the living “things” are preventing the mail from being sent? Look, whatever this is, it’s fucking CREEPY. So NO THANKS.
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