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: itâ€™s an even worse mess than he thought it was. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to read Discworld.Â
Have we ever encountered a messâ€”both literal and spiritualâ€”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 Iâ€™m intrigued by the little mysteries that Pratchett is seeding in the text. (And look, I still donâ€™t know why Mrs. Cake is around here. What does she get out of this place? Why that message? WHY FOG, I STILL DONâ€™T GET IT.) Itâ€™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. Thereâ€™s also some blame laid on the clacks system, which fascinates me because thatâ€™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? Iâ€™d argue that this isnâ€™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 â€œpushedâ€ 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, wouldnâ€™t Groat be pleased about that?
Of course, it doesnâ€™t help that, just like Moist, I cannot figure out why this man is the best person for the job. Mr. Pump canâ€™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 itâ€™s not like heâ€™s up-to-date on Ankh-Morpork. HEâ€™S BEEN A LITTLE BUSY. All Moist has to work with is what he observesâ€”and what heâ€™s observed is a goddamn nightmareâ€”and what Groat tells him.
Which leads me to that. Because Pratchett switches over to Groatâ€™s POV, and through that, the truth is hinted at again. We know heâ€™s lying; Iâ€™m not questioning that at this point. Itâ€™s what the lies are that concern me! So, thereâ€™s the â€œceremonyâ€ that Groat and Stanley partake in, in which they stare at the image of a â€œgod.â€ 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 donâ€™t quite get why this is a ceremony, but itâ€™s not actually the most confusing thing here. That absolutely belongs to this bit:
â€œStanley! Itâ€™s just a statue! Donâ€™t get excited! Calm down! You donâ€™t want to upsetâ€¦ them.â€Â
Stanley hung his head.
â€œTheyâ€™ve beenâ€¦ whispering to me again, Mr. Groat,â€ he confided in a low voice.
â€œYes, Stanley. They whisper to me, too.â€
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 â€œkept seeing the writinâ€™,â€ which I assume refers to the writing on the letters? Look, Ankh-Morpork is weird as hell, THIS IS POSSIBLE. But thereâ€™s another little clue here that might suggest why this problem has gone on for so long:
â€œThey never listen, and then what happens? They find out the hard way.â€
And I assume that Mr. Mutableâ€™s death is that â€œhard way.â€ So, other people tried to be the Postmaster General, but they were killed byâ€¦ whatever is currently alive in the piles of unsent letters. So perhaps this industry didnâ€™t die, so to speak, but became alive in an entirely different way. What if the living â€œthingsâ€ are preventing the mail from being sent? Look, whatever this is, itâ€™s fucking CREEPY. So NO THANKS.
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