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There is reason to be concerned about associating too closely with the tomato plant. After all, it is a member of the consistently ill-reputed, unattractive nightshade family. The members of this incongruous family accumulate within their leaves, stems, and unripe fruit toxic alkaloids.
I have never considered myself a naÃ¯ve person. Admittedly, I am the child of two college graduates, raised in a middle class suburb, with access to superior education and co-curricular opportunities. The struggles I've faced in life, namely a parental divorce, have been minimal. But I thought I had an understanding that the challenges each person faces in life, while certainly of varying difficulty, define who they are and the wisdom they have to share with others. It seems now that my flaw was in believing that the most highly educated individuals or the ones most tirelessly devoted to traditional pursuits were the people who had the most to teach me about life. And my new job at Subway was to prove the ultimate antidote.
The primary toxic alkaloid found in the tomato plant is tomatine. Concentrated in the stems and leaves, tomatine stimulates the immune system to react to protein antigens as if they were harmful allergens. In reality the presence of these protein antigens is entirely commonplace and innocent, but this reckless toxin forces the body to destroy the same type of encoding proteins which comprise the very human body itself. Tomatine has the distinct power of forcing one to break down that which it has created, built, fostered.
The Major key. Made up of seven distinct notes, plus an eighth which duplicates the first an octave higher, this key is the most familiar tonality of the Western Hemisphere. Many a child who grew up singing "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Soâ€¦" understands the seemingly innate attraction towards a major mindset.
Dry ice is carbon dioxide in its solid form. At temperatures above -69.5 Â°, dry ice
changes directly from a solid to a gas, without ever becoming a liquid.
This process is called sublimation.
A convict with a decided lack of plans for the future. Anthony stands beside me, preparing the day's meats as I organize the mass death of more tomatoes. Hearing the rustle of the morning's first customers, I move toward the crowd and begin to prepare their order. Aware Anthony was busy, I choose to try serving everyone on my own. Surely it was a difficult, demanding task, especially with the continuously growing line, but one I knew I could complete if I had to. Glancing the line of multiple customers by chance, Anthony dropped his work to help with the patrons, telling me, "Even when you don't need it, ask for help."
Solanine is another glycoalkaloid poison found naturally occurring in the leaves of an adult tomato plant. This toxin acts as a natural pesticidal defense, keeping the body of the tomato plant ugly enough that predators fear interaction for worry their own condition will be affected. When ingested, solanine causes blindness, hallucinations, loss of sensation, and, it's most telling symptom, paralysis. Use of solanine-laced tomato leaves in tea has been responsible for at least one death.
A seventeen year old dropout on house arrest. Summer and I stand shoulder to shoulder informing a weary family, tired from a day of travel, that we are all out of turkey. Dejected, the family leaves the restaurant empty-handed and hungry. A forlorn look settles over my face, frustration not for the loss of profit but for the inability to give the family a brief respite from their hectic reality. Certainly, it was not my fault that the store was out of a product but I couldn't resist thinking that I should have done differently, done better. "Don't worry about it," Summer says. "You just do the best you can with what you have, under the circumstances."
The Minor key. Derived from the Major key, this key consists of three essential scale degrees spaced over the sound of seven pitch classes. Born into the Eastern Hemisphere, a child will come to seek the orderly, controlled triads of a Minor scale amongst the endless variety of available music.
A misshapen, solanine-scarred stalk firmly clenches an impossibly round, well-nourished tomato. The fruit is shiny, glowing amidst the impenetrable green of the plant which created it. It is a fruit, not yet complete, still attached to its creator, but already overtaking its maker in levels of beauty and promise.
Sublimation of dry ice is an endothermic process. As dry ice passes directly from the solid
to the gaseous phase, it absorbs energy from its surroundings in the form of heat.
Essentially, dry ice uses the energy available in its environment
to transform itself.
The Major and Minor keys. Play one song of a Major tonality and one of a Minor tonality. Ask a child of a young age from the United States, a distinctively Major land, which song they prefer and they will undoubtedly choose the one of Major tonality. Pose the same question to a child from India, an astutely Minor terrain, and they will without doubt select the song of Minor tonality. Each will answer that the tonality they choose seems happier, more upbeat, more communicative than the other.
A weed smoking, liquor drinking, self-fancied artist. Jayson, immersed in conversation with a customer, discovers she is an art professor and asks her to take a look over some of his pieces. He quickly produces his portfolio, inviting her scrutiny. Knowing he views his art as a sacred extension of himself, I am amazed at Jayson's ability to share of himself without fear of negative reviews or criticism. When I ask how he is so open, Jayson smiles, saying, "Let others in. Always be cautious, never fearful."
When dry ice is put in water it accelerates the sublimation process, creating
clouds of fog that form a dry ice bubble. The dry ice bubble is in the most precarious
of any state of matter: it clings reverently to its current form but teeters on
the edge of change.
The Minor and Major keys. Play one song of a Major tonality and one of a Minor tonality. Ask an adult from the United States which song they prefer. Ask the same of an adult from India. They will choose the song of Major tonality and of Minor tonality, respectively. When questioning them as to their choice of song, they will each explain that the tonality opposite their own seemed too mysterious, too melancholic, or too sad to be appreciated.
For centuries after the Spanish first introduced the tomato to Mexico and Europe, fruit and plant alike were considered dangerous, toxic, untouchable. Nowadays the fruit is consumed frequently, indeed loved by many, but the rest of the plant is still suspect.
From my Subway family, I have learned lessons I never expected to. However, I think of myself not as anything but a master in the study of life. Instead, I proclaim myself an amateur. I claim no superior knowledge of what it means to live, to overcome. I know I will feel the familiar glow of my job at Subway every time I learn the most when and where I least expect to. And I will reap the blessings of my time there whenever I am open enough to allow people, places, experiences to affect me in such a way that I might grow toward understanding life's offerings.
Distinct realms of thought and creativity in which one's mind can exist. The realm, either Major or Minor, most appreciated by a child is determined by inborn location. By inherited, innate differences.
To the scientist, the tomato plant is Solanum lycopersicum, a blend of nutrition and toxin all too commonly found in nature. To the inexperienced gardener, the tomato plant is no more than a toxic weed from which a fruit has been persistent, clever, and determined enough to grow.
What Subway has taught me is that I know very little, but hope to learn so much.
The notes. The Major and Minor keys are written in the same language. They are modes of communication whose greatest accomplishments are appearing obvious and natural in one's mind. In form, they are composed of exactly the same notes, the same stylistic elements as each other. Preferring one over the other is a matter of predilection, not an inability to understand.
Given enough time, enough experience in its surroundings,
the dry ice bubble will be overwhelmed by atmospheric pressure.
It will burst.