SEPTA — it’s the organization that gets you to work in the morning and gets you home at night on buses, trolleys and the subway.
So why does a portion of its website geared to tourists have a fixation on pineapple?
“Since the 17th Century,” the section of the site targeted at visitors reads, “exotic pineapple has been associated with warmth and friendliness and is long recognized as a symbol of hospitality.” There’s even a pineapple icon on one of the site’s navigation menus.
The language about pineapples has been on SEPTA’s website for years, but suddenly garnered a small amount of notoriety on Philadelphia section of the website Reddit.
“It’s not weird,” said SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams. “It’s just a symbol of hospitality.”
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Williams guessed that SEPTA’s customer service department, which also provides content for the website, picked up the language because it’s employees also deal with hotels in an effort to teach tourists how to use public transit.
It is true to say that the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality industry. One of the tropical fruits is on the school crest of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. A quick google search shows that many of the nation’s hotel chains feature homage’s to the so-called Princess of Fruits.
But is SEPTA — the people that run city subway and buses — in the hospitality business?
Yes, said Nilda Rivera-Frazir, who manages SEPTA’s relationships with the hospitality industry.
“We’re in transportation,” Rivera-Frazir said. “We take people from around the country and around the world where they want to go.”
Pineapples are not, as many believe, native to Hawaii. Scientists believe that they were first cultivated in Central or South America. Costa Rica continues to be the top source of fresh pineapples. Most of our canned fruit comes from Thailand, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
According to legend, a pineapple was given to Christopher Columbus on one of his visits to the new world.
To Europeans the fruit was exotic and rare for centuries, and they tended to spoil in transit from the Carribean to American colonists. The appearance of a pineapple at a party, according to some sources, was an indication that the host would spare no expense in caring for guests.