In the first half of the sixth chapter of Going Postal, Moist learns why the Post Office has become what it is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Hubris tore it all apart, didn’t it? And if we accept that the arrogance of using the “machine” to try to improve efficiency around the post office was the main reason for what happened, then I understand the Order and Groat a lot more. Because that means that the post office itself was just as immense and impressive as these main claim it was. It was only this strange technology that ruined things.
Well, the use of it, I should say. I bet if it had not been utilized, the postal service would still be thriving in Ankh Morpork. There’s clearly still a need for it, and I am enjoying that the book positions the industry this way. The post office provides a service that is clearly important and meaningful. Not just that, but there’s a unique magic that comes with letters in Discworld that Moist is now discovering. It’s not just that they’re alive; their potential is magical! And because those letters have sat undelivered for so long, that magic grows. Of course, now we know that there’s another outside influence that has led to this, and Bloody Stupid Johnson’s machine complicated matters.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about the revival. I CAN’T GET OVER MOIST’S OUTFIT. It’s so over-the-top, but I kinda agree that it has to be. In many ways, Moist is still approaching all of this as a conman. It’s why, when drunk, he defaulted to grandiose speeches and flowery promises. He knows how to win over the confidence of strangers, of those who doubt, of those who are skeptical. But in doing so here, Moist appears to be genuinely bringing this place back to life. The fact that he sends the old postmen to deliver mail—actual, real mail—doesn’t fit the part of a con. He’s making this happen. And perhaps he isn’t thinking of it that way; maybe he truly wants to use this situation as a means of escaping. But when can he feasibly do that?
Probably after the post office is up and running.
So, while the postmen are out delivering mail—IT’S REALLY HAPPENING!!!—Moist has Groat reveal to him what’s in the cellar. And leave it up to Pratchett to hide this in a pun, because we were already told what was behind a lot of this. The Pie! And it’s a Pie. That represents Pi. If Pi were 3. So it’s a machine that was supposed to be an organ, but also manipulates spacetime, but also can sort letters really fast, but also caused the postal service to collapse because it kept spitting out letters from OTHER DIMENSIONS AND REALITIES. So it wasn’t just that people started slacking off delivering the mail. Many of it they couldn’t deliver because letters arrived YEARS in advance. Or they were letters that resulted from decisions NOT made in this timeline, but another. The Sorting Engine “sorted” mail from every possible timeline and universe, and dropped them at the feet of these postman, who now had an extra layer of sorting to do.
In a way, I do feel bad for the people who lost their jobs due to Postmaster Cowerby’s actions. His eagerness to use the Sorting Engine was well-intentioned, but it backfired so horribly. The first half of this chapter makes it so clear that these people loved being postmen, and one postmaster’s mistake took it all away from them. No wonder they doubted it ever returning! (I mean, still doesn’t excuse them nearly murdering Moist, but whatever.) So why should they have gotten excited by attempts to revive the place? Everything had gotten so bad that there was no clear path out of this disaster. And it wasn’t until Moist that a path materialized. That’s why I’m so fascinated by Moist’s role in this. Maybe this is just another con for him, but he’s changing lives in the process. And not negatively. I feel like that’s never happened before for him. So, can he stick with it?
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