There he goes again, off to get a Diet Snapple Lemon Iced Tea after ordering his sandwich. He must really like this deli, that guy. He's here every other day getting the same sandwich: roast beef, swiss cheese, lettuce, mayo, salt and pepper. Sounds pretty tasty. But hold up, Miguel, what about the tomato? I wouldn't want to forget to put the tomato on. Did he say anything about tomato... Yes! Yes he did. He said, "And please, Miguel, no tomato on the sandwich."
It's nice that he learned my name. So many customers here just call me "man" or "hey." God, now that I think about it, I never took the time to learn his name. Shame on you, Miguel. Remember what your mom taught you all those years ago: being a good person takes more effort than just not being a bad person. You should ask his name next time he comes in and then write it down so you don't forget. So I guess no tomato on his sandwich.
But not so fast, Miguel. What's your job? Your job is to give your customers the best sandwich you can, right? If you're not doing that, they'll find a different deli to go to. Hell, I bet you've already lost a bunch of customers to delis that learn their customer's names. Ugh, stop feeling sorry for yourself, Miguel. Your customers like you, and you've already committed to being a better deli man, so climb out of this pity pit you've dug yourself into. Good. I feel better. Ah! But the tomato. Sandwiches are better with tomato, aren't they? They provide a cool sweetness and a different texture that balances the snap of the lettuce, the sharpness of the swiss cheese, the creamy flavor of the mayo and the rich, sinewy pull of the roast beef. Every deli man knows sandwiches are all about balance and without the tomato a sandwich isn't properly balanced, is it? Of course not. I'm going to put the tomato on.
Damn! But he literally instructed me not to put the tomato on. WHY? Why would he confuse me like this? Maybe he's punishing me for not learning his name by presenting an unsolvable riddle just to torture me? No, he wouldn't do that. He's not that kind of person. Remember, Miguel, he learned your name. He's a good man.
Ah, I've got it. He's allergic to tomato. That must be it. So no tomato then! But... didn't he come in on Sunday and get a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll with ketchup? Yes! That was him. So I guess he's not allergic but maybe he's afraid. Tomatoes are a member of the deadly nightshade family of plants. Perhaps he doesn't want to dance with death for the sake of a tasty sandwich? But again, the ketchup! He must know ketchup is made from tomatoes, right? Of course he does, Miguel. You saw him take out $100 at the ATM machine one time. He's clearly not an idiot if he's holding out that kind of money.
So what is it? Why wouldn't he want the toma... Oh God, I understand now. He knows that my ancestors came from Central America. And he sees the tomato as an insulting symbol of the European genocide carried out against my people hundreds of years ago by the conquistador Hernan Cortes. After all, the tomato, native to Mexico and Central America, was not introduced to Europe until after Cortes' conquest of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan - now Mexico City - in 1521. It's funny how something as insignificant as a delicious little red fruit can symbolize an embarrassing cultural legacy for some people.
It's also weird to think about how Italian food didn't have tomato sauce until at least 1521. What did they put on pasta before that, nothing? Just a bunch of Italians sitting around a bowl of pasta without sauce saying, "I wish-a we had-a something to put on this-a pasta!" Haha. Hold up, Miguel. That was racist. Italians don't all talk like that. Remember, it takes more than just not being a bad person to be a good one. No more accents, from here on out. No more China guy or Italian guy. You know that you're not racist, but they don't know that when they hear you do your funny accents. Oh right, tomato. I guess I should tell him that I don't impart any cultural significance on a white man using tomato. Plus, he doesn't look Spanish. His ancestors probably had nothing to do with the subjugation of the Mexican Amerindian. But come on, Miguel, if you start saying all "Hey, don't feel bad about what Europeans did to my ancestors," it's going to seem like you're asking for sympathy. You're not a victim, Miguel. You are a hard working American man, just like he is. You're not going to let yourself be held down by history. And actions speak louder than words. Don't tell him it's OK for him to eat Tomato; show him it's OK.
Boom! Tomato. On. The. Sandwich!
Now he's going to know that A) I don't hold him responsible for what happened half a millenium ago to people who are as remote to me as a medieval English knight is to him, B) that he can order tomato on his sandwich from me from now on, and C) I know how to make the tastiest damn sandwich in town! That's the spirit, Miguel. Give the customer a better version of what they want. That's how you're going to get ahead. Maybe you should thank this guy for showing you that? Nah. Not yet. You should learn his name first, become casual friends and then, years later, when your deli empire has grown beyond your wildest dreams, seek him out and let him know it was all because he challenged you to be brave enough to put tomato on his sandwich despite all of the cultural baggage attached to such an action.
Who would have thought that the long road to racial harmony could have started with something as simple as a customer being too ashamed of his people's history to ask for tomato on his sandwich?