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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Do You Handle Interruptions

by Silvia Uribe

Do you see them as a waste of your precious time? Or do you see them as a nice break to learn something new, spur creativity or to divert tiredness and boredom?

People's reactions in general, both mine and those of others' are one of the multiple things that I love to observe. It is amazing to see that no matter where each one of us comes from, our shared human condition shows when we react to a variety of external triggers, with the ever so familiar expressions of laughter, annoyance, surprise, or anger to name just a few. However, variations to these reactions are endless, and according to those who know, they are usually based on the individual's personality and on cultural differences. This is the case with the way people handle interruptions. Each person reacts differently, however I've noticed some "regional" commonalities.

For instance, I'm used to interruptions. It is the way I was raised, I think. I would venture to say that in most Latin American countries children don't have the luxury of telling their parents or their teachers to wait. When adults tell children to do something, it is usually not a suggestion and children are supposed to "obey" immediately, no matter if they're busy doing something else. My parents were very loving, but when they counted one, two, I knew that before three seconds had passed I was expected to drop whatever I was doing and do as I was told. Taking these stop and go training into consideration, which fosters a quick response, as well as other cultural facts which promote a spontaneous, lively, at times impatient, spare of a moment type of behavior, one doesn't have to wonder how come differences in behavior can be at times so vast between the American and the Latino ways. It was a surprise for me in the beginning, to watch how concentrated and devoted to the task at hand some Americans can be. Sometimes, I wish my mind would work in such a focused, organized way, but it seems impossible! I, like many other Latinos I know, tend to disperse my attention on several things at a time. For instance, when I am in the middle of the hallway talking, say with a co-worker and someone I know passes by, I will at least say hello to that person, and we might exchange a couple of words, obviously interrupting my previous conversation. Some Americans might be bothered by this at times, but for a Latina like me, it would be completely inadmissible to "ignore" a person's presence, more so if I know him or her. By the same token, when - say an employee at the counter - is helping a customer and I have a quick question, it is difficult and seems unfair to have to wait ten minutes until the other person has been helped, when I only have a question that requires a yes or no answer.

However, after all these years of exposure to the American focused way of conducting business, I got used to it, and I can not only see some benefits, but I can also take advantage of them. I have to admit that because of this I've exercised my patience, and it has improved quite a bit. As I keep developing my focusing abilities, I'm still disperse when it's beneficial, like right now, when I'm at work with several projects on my desk at a time, plus planning, over the phone, a shopping day with my daughter to get her Prom dress and accessories, and at the same time, trying to meet the self-imposed deadline for this article. No doubt, the combination of both cultures has enriched me.

So yes, I have to confess that I do not only welcome interruptions, but I procure them. Actually, monotony at work, in my day, or in life kills me! While I am not ADHD, the fact is that being the people person that I am, plus a very curious human being, accepting interruptions as a regular part of my day has enabled me to establish relationships, and learn about many things that otherwise I would not have.

Uh, excuse me a minute, someone's knocking on my door ...

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hell Came After Havoc...

by Silvia Uribe

Imagine this: It is a Friday and Christmas is just a week away. The owner of "Ecstasy," a small boutique filled with leather clothes, and accessories for women is opening the door at 10am. The store is completely re-stocked for the last days of the season. The streets are quite empty since shoppers usually take a half an hour or so to get to the stores, reach for their credit cards, and shoot their signature left and right. Three men walk from across the street directly towards the boutique. The owner of the store sees them and something tells her they're up to no good. She rushes to the double French door to close it, but it's too late. As she is closing it, one of the men, in a fast move, puts his foot between the door and the frame, making it impossible for her to close it while with one of his hands he pushes the door open for him and his accomplices to step in. He is concealing a gun in his jacket. The man is literally two inches away from the store owner when he takes his weapon out and points it to her stomach area. "Do what you're told, and you won't be hurt", she heard the man say. Time stops and from that point on she feels as though everything is happening in slow motion. Although the men seem to know what they're doing, she notices that the one touching her abdomen with the gun is very nervous, shaking violently. She is afraid that he will shoot her inadvertently. She dares to speak to the man. "Calm down. Take everything, just don't hurt us", she said, referring to herself and her employee, who was in the back room while this was happening.

From there, havoc! She is ordered to go to the back room, as two more men join the others. Those men have large weapons with them, the military type. One of them, handing his rifle to one of his peers inside, stays casually outside while the rest of them are busy ripping the walls of the store naked, and putting everything in trash bags. They demand from the women to take off their jewelry and lay it on the ground without looking at them. The store owner is ordered to hand them the keys to her car, and her purse. Inside the purse was her I.D. with her address, and the keys to her home. She complies. The men are moving as fast as they can; they are yelling at each other and at her for more money. There's no more, and they threaten to kill her. She's sure she's going to die. She sees that one of them leaves a gun on a couch, within her reach. In a matter of seconds, a thousand considerations come to her mind. She feels that she could get the guy that's "watching" them, but decides against it because the three men on the other side of the wall would easily turn around and shoot her. She continues cooperating. Before they leave, they threaten her again and tell her not to move from the back room for five minutes. They take the merchandise, her car and her purse with them, however the most precious thing they took from her was her emotional stability.

I was that store owner in my hometown, and after these events life became hell for me and my family for a couple of years. I started having problems with my husband who was unable to make me feel safe, although he did everything in his power and then more. I was unable to sleep a full night, and I was growing more and more impatient with my then, two year old daughter. Don't even ask how I felt about walking on a lonely street or when someone approached or spoke to me from behind. During that time, there was no one to help me navigate the complicated legal system, or who could give me any information on the investigation or the prosecution of the case. I needed someone who could help me get restitution, or at the very least, some financial assistance to pay for the therapy that I desperately needed to reduce my fears of these men getting to my home and to my family.

Traditionally, criminal justice systems have overlooked the needs of the victims, solely focusing in the criminals, and in taking them out of the streets. Fortunately, this is not the case in Santa Barbara County. Since 1980, the District Attorney's Office has served victims of crime, being one of the first in the State and the Nation to have a Victim Witness Unit devoted to assist, inform, explain, and provide support and referrals to them, and to offer State Victim Compensation that can pay for some of the victims' needs, when they are eligible.

It is good to know that thanks to this program, victims of crime and their families in our county can have the guide, support and information they need to start their healing process and recovery as soon as they're ready to do it.

In observance of National Victims' Rights Week, the SB County District Attorney's Office is hosting the "Justice for Victims, Justice for All" conference on April 17th, at the Marriott Hotel in Buellton 8:30 - 3:00, which includes two panels and a Award luncheon. For information call 682-0702.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at