~∞ Shop: Etseri, Svaneti

I look around the shop we have in our house and think: SURELY now there’s no room to add more: it’s stuffed to the hilt! But my wife always manages to put in new wares, which she is very good at buying at the lowest prices either in Zugdidi or in Tbilisi’s Lilo “Mall.”

This brings to mind two contrasting ideas of incremental increase, one mathematical, the other cinematic.

The first is a thought experiment known as Hilbert’s Hotel, after German Mathematician David Hilbert, who proposed it. Suppose that you have a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, all occupied. But a new guest arrives and wants a room. What to do? Impossible, right? Well, due to the nature of infinity, you can simply ask all guests currently in rooms simultaneously to move to the next room. This will leave Room 1 empty for the new arrival! This works for any number of new guests, including an infinite number. In this case, you just ask all current guests each to move at the same time to… a room of number twice that of their current room number! Voila, an infinite number of rooms has suddenly become available! Is your thinker hurting yet?

The second expansion idea comes from the folks at Monty Python, and their comedy film, The Meaning of Life. One scene features an enormous man in a restaurant who has already vomited once and again eaten his fill. But a waiter (John Cleese) offers him a thin mint at the end, which proves to be the last straw for his LESS-than-infinite gastric capacity: the man explodes all over the establishment, a scene perhaps best left to the imagination.

Which of these two scenarios is available to our shop? Neither, I hope. We don’t actually have an infinite number of nooks and crannies into which to cram new goods, though at the moment it may seem that we do. I add nails to the ceiling rafters and hang things there; I’ve already installed just about all the shelving space we can take, and the excess stock is threatening to take over other rooms of the house. I’m nowhere near as good at “arranging new things while maintaining order” as my wife is, so I let her do it, wondering when she’ll agree that enough is enough while still wanting novelties to draw people in.

But we also don’t want the full-to-bursting scene either, because this would simply be messy and wasteful. So, we try to balance on the edge between not full enough and too full, consciously (in my case) or not (hers, I think). It doesn’t keep me awake at night, at least not yet.

But we now have exotic new stuffed toys hanging about: a kangaroo complete with joey, a panda and its cub, a parrot; the elephant I joked that we would rustle up on demand has already come and gone in a day. She just goes on rearranging things or asking me to put them where she can’t reach. Meanwhile, the shop has grown from its single small table at inauguration to this amazing general store, the largest between Khaishi and Mestia. Etseri does need it, and it will continue, as long as we keep the credit line part under firm control, not letting it bankrupt us. Meanwhile, if you need a stuffed toy crocodile or spider monkey, no doubt inspired by our trip to Zimbabwe a few years ago, look no further. (And by the way, ~∞ means “approximately infinite”.)

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

04 April 2019 18:15