Should I Let My Boyfriend Be a Poll Worker on Election Day?

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My boyfriend and I are in our 20s. We don’t have any conditions that put us at a high risk for serious illness if we get Covid-19. We’ve been taking it pretty seriously, though. We don’t live together, but we only hang out with our roommates and a few friends we trust. Last week, my boyfriend announced that he’d signed up to be a poll worker on Election Day. I said, “Over my dead body!” Since then, we fight about it all the time without getting anywhere. He thinks it’s important to help. I say it’s too risky to me and others in our Covid pod. At my mom’s suggestion, we’ve agreed to let you settle this for us. What do you think?


I’m flattered, but who cares what I think? Never delegate important issues in your relationship to other people, much less strangers. Would you ask a rando to decide whether you should move in together or have kids? I’m happy to share my opinion, but only if it helps you negotiate a compromise you can both tolerate.

I get your fear (and maybe surprise) at your boyfriend’s announcement. He should have discussed it with you first. But your response (“Over my dead body!”) shut the door on conversation precisely when you needed it most. Next time, say, “Hang on! Let’s talk about this. It affects me too.”

Personally, I admire your boyfriend’s decision. Many poll workers are older and at greater risk during the pandemic. So, his offer to step in and help with the election, the most important vehicle in our democracy, seems noble to me. I hope you recognize your boyfriend’s patriotism.

And risk mitigation seems pretty simple here. Your boyfriend will be masked at the polling place, as will the vast majority of sensible voters. So, the risk of viral transmission seems low. If you’re still worried, ask him to steer clear of you for two weeks. Sure, that’s an inconvenience, but one in service to an excellent cause.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

We live in a subdivision of 29 homes, most with attractive grounds. Our homeowners’ association agreement forbids any active businesses. But our neighbor has an active landscaping business. He parks two large pickup trucks in his driveway containing ladders and riding mowers; they’re often stuffed with brush. When the trucks aren’t there, his driveway is lined with unsightly black bags of landscaping materials. The problem: The board of our association consists of a single member, a realtor who was an early resident. She’s undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and we hate to trouble her. We don’t have a relationship with our neighbor. Any suggestions?


Parking two trucks in a driveway hardly constitutes running an active business. Maybe storing bags of landscaping materials on the property comes closer to a violation. That said, you and I won’t fix this problem in a vacuum. You will have to speak up.

Call the realtor who runs the board and ask if she can field a question about the homeowners’ agreement. If she is too ill to help, ask who can. Or speak to your neighbor directly about alternative storage for the ugly bags. (Maybe behind his house?) Or seethe quietly for the rest of your born days. Those, I believe, are your options.

My friend borrowed two new folding tables for a drive-by baby shower. When I dropped them off, I asked her husband for a marker to write my name on the undersides. He said he’d do it. When I went back to pick them up, the two tables left weren’t mine. They were old and beaten up. Her husband asked me to take the tables anyway and sort it out with the other guests. But I don’t know the other guests! So, I asked him to work it out. A few weeks and reminders later, no word from them. Should I let this go?


The sting of stories like yours is rarely about the tables. More often, it’s that our friends apparently fail to appreciate our kindness. If the baby has already come, let this go. (New babies are tough customers!)

Otherwise, call your friend and tell her you know she’s busy, but you’re disappointed that she and her husband blew you off about the tables. Then, having cleared the air and given her one last reminder to fix the problem, think of the tables as another shower gift. And tell her you look forward to meeting the new baby.

My brother and his wife constantly brag about their two children. (I mean, constantly!) Would it be evil of me to let them know that I know their teenage son was arrested recently for driving under the influence? I could slip it casually into conversation.


It’s cruel to rejoice in the misfortune of a child because you bear a silly grudge against his parents. Especially here, where the boy could have hurt himself or someone else. As for his parents’ bragging, hasn’t anyone told you that braggarts only seem self-confident? Usually, they’re overcompensating for insecurity. Play nice!

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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