04/14/2012 11:58 EDT | Updated 06/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Dispatches From Down East: There's a Reason We're Called the "Late Gards"

According to some research, Canadians are not as obsessed with time and punctuality as their American counterparts. I would hazard a guess that Atlantic Canadians are even less obsessed than their western complement spread across the country. I have given up making apologies for my tardiness.


I have a day out of the classroom today, courtesy of the Western School Board, my employer. I feel almost giddy as I leisurely get myself ready, and line my ducks up in a row for a day of meetings in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Everything is taking longer this morning, and I feel so generous with my time. I have even offered my husband to do some of his morning duties so that he can actually get to work without being late.

Which would be a first for him too, as he also is usually behind schedule.

Mornings go something like this: I get up, shower and then make the beds. My husband gets up, makes coffee, puts wood in the outdoor furnace, and then walks the dog. While I pick out clothes for the four little Gards, he makes breakfast. While he cleans the table, I brush the little one's hair and finish putting my face on, the one I wear in public. This is a fascinating time for any stragglers that happen to find themselves in the bathroom with me while this process is underway. I am in awe of the transformation myself.

According to some research, Canadians are not as obsessed with time and punctuality as their American counterparts. I would hazard a guess that Atlantic Canadians are even less obsessed than their western complement spread across the country. Keep in mind that this is truly a personal opinion, which if it were supported by evidence, would explain a lot about this writer. Furthermore, research would greatly ease my conscience. In other words, sometimes we just wish the research would support our theory because that means we no longer have to feel so, shall I say, responsible for our actions. So I support the theory that I have been socialized and immersed in a relaxed Maritime culture that appreciates punctuality, but makes allowances for those, like myself, who are always running behind schedule.

My name is Lori and I am time-challenged.

I don't plan to be late. We, as a family, are actually very organized, and have a bit of a groove going on those precious few days when everything falls into place. But what usually happens is this: things fall apart just after I am done putting my face on. That quality time I have carved out in the bathroom every morning is the last moment of sanity I experience before going down the stairs to join the mayhem of the zoo. 7:59 a.m. is known as pre-chaos. Everything falls apart after the clock hits 8:00 a.m.

And that is partly why we are always late. Because someone has forgotten their homework agenda or their lunch bag. Or the dog gets away and starts chasing cars up the road. Or my littlest one is crying for a kiss, or a certain hat, or her blankie. And my husband and I run around like chickens with our heads cut off, toward the vehicles, and hope we have the right set of keys to start the engine. And sometimes one of us has already left for work when the other realizes that her keys are in his coat happens, and once again, there you have it: You're late.

I have given up making apologies for my tardiness. I usually just try to slink in the front doors at school and fly under the radar as much as is humanly possible. Occasionally as the buses are arriving, I will come in the entrance and act like it was deliberate this way, like I planned on greeting my students at the door as they arrived. Don't all award-winning teachers do this?

When we were first married, people always called my husband's family "the late Gards." We like to live up to long-standing reputations around here. I have brought a whole new meaning to that family label, as I have never been on time for much over the last 16 years of marriage, and I don't plan on starting now.

However, there is always the faintest of possibilities that today, maybe, is the dawning of a new punctual era?

I tell my husband to go to work already, and just as I think he has followed my prompting, I look out the door and see him hurriedly rushing all the kids out of my car and into his truck.

"Brian," I holler, "I told you, I'll take the kids this morning."

"Lori, do you know what time it is?" he shouts back. "The kids are going to miss the bus!"

It's 8:15 a.m. Where did the time go? One morning of slowing my jet engines, and I am already running behind schedule. Worse, I have now made everyone else in the family late as well. And I have not even taken the time to eat breakfast. Thankfully, there is always the drive-through.

Confession: I am also a dedicated multi-tasker and that is the true reason I am always late. In fact, as I am driving the 45-minute commute to work, I am planning how to spend the 10 extra minutes I may have because "I wasn't as late as you thought I was." I think I just might be able to squeeze in a trip to the dollar store if I take the short cut into town.


In the end, my better judgment rules out that little voice in my head, and I am actually on time for work this morning. I am the second to last one to arrive, but hey, people, I am not late. And of this I am proud. I was also back on time from lunch, after another endeavour in multi-tasking as I spent the bulk of my time thrift-shopping. I still had time to run into a coffee shop (and quickly back out again to the van as I forgot cash to pay for the bagel I ordered) and yet still make it back to my meeting with an allowance for a speedy visit to the restroom before afternoon sessions.

Upon settling in for the afternoon, I watch one lady (who arrived late once already today) as she makes her way to the only available seat left at the front of the room. She looks sheepish, while I look smug.

I may be a late Gard, but it appears I'm in good company.