Tinder, But for Getting Strangers to Shovel Out Your Car

On a whim, I decided to see if I could use Tinder to get someone to shovel out my car. And it worked.

At first, I was responsible. When it snowed, I shoveled. When my neighbor threw a pile on the hood of my Honda Fit, I didn’t complain. Too much. But at least I still dug out my car.

I didn’t start to consider taking an unusual course of action until about the second or third big storm, when a stomach bug meant the snow piled up, and the mushy sludge along the side of the car turned into a wall of ice. With Boston being in the quasi-apocalyptic state that it’s in, more snow was on the way, and my car was at risk of becoming one of those ambiguous-looking mounds. I had to do something. And fast.


Photo by Susan Zalkind

I’ve used Tinder before, but, you know, the “normal” way. I’ve scanned through area singles who mostly consist of grad students, firefighters, and an assortment of men posing on boats with large fish. I’ve gone on dates, and they haven’t all been terrible.

But for some reason—maybe it was that stomach bug or maybe just because of the times we’re living in—on a whim, I decided to see if I could use Tinder to get someone to shovel out my car. To avoid confusion, I made my terms crystal clear:


I swiped right exactly a dozen times. Instead of looking for men I was necessarily attracted to, I looked for men who seemed especially wholesome. (If only this Venn diagram had a greater overlap, perhaps I wouldn’t be in this predicament at all.) In less than 15 minutes, I got 11 matches and three offers. It probably helped that it was the Friday before Valentine’s Day. I checked that my roommate would be home, and moved forward on a first come, first shovel basis.

Luckily for me, the first person who responded was a 38-year-old man I’ll call Ted. “Brilliant!” he opened. “I can offer a shoveled driveway.” I told him it was nothing too dramatic, and he said he would stop by the next morning. I gave him my address. Or at least, an address that was somewhat near mine. Ted seemed too good to be true. I was skeptical.

He proved me wrong. The next morning, he showed up with a shovel and an ice pick, and he did not kill me. He got to work shoveling out my car while I picked up a coffee and a scone for him. I don’t live very close to a café, so I was gone for about 45 minutes. When I came back, my car was mostly shoveled out. I helped, we chatted—mostly about his ex—and before I knew it, my car was free. Ted wasn’t creepy at all. I think he just got a kick out of being chivalrous and having a little company on Valentine’s Day.

Photo by Susan Zalkind

I’ve come to learn that the trick to using Tinder to get strangers to shovel out your car may be to find someone exactly like Ted because my next attempts did not go quite as smoothly. Soon after Ted left, the region was slammed by Neptune, and my car was buried under another foot of snow, plus whatever my neighbor tossed its way. This time, when I swiped right a dozen times, I got six matches, one invitation to make a pornographic film, and one offer to shovel on the condition of hot cocoa but with no follow up. So I swiped four more times and luckily enough, got four matches and four offers.

“Susan, I am skilled with a shovel,” the first guy told me. “I can shovel cars, roofs, and old lady’s sidewalks.” But when he proceeded to ask me if I was interested in a long-term or short-term shoveling job, I realized he had missed my point entirely.

“I’m literally looking for someone to dig out my car that’s covered with snow and parked on the street,” I explained.

“Wouldn’t Craigslist be a better spot for you?”

I moved on and absent-mindedly swiped right on a Thursday night while painting my nails. The odds weren’t looking good. None of my matches were writing me. But then I got a note from a man I’ll call Ken, a very good looking 28 year-old tax consultant with an interest in home renovation.

He told me he was looking for a woman who could also be his best friend. Sigh. And then, after exchanging messages for about an hour, he told me he’d come over and shovel that weekend. But on Friday, the wind chill was 14 degrees below zero, and Ken, it seems, had turn just as cold. He stopped writing.

Heartbroken, with more snow on the way and a renewed sense of urgency, I started swiping right with abandon. Over the course of two-and-a-half episodes of Empire, I made 74 right swipes, got 35 matches, and 11 offers to shovel. Nine of the offers were from dudes who either lived too far away, were too creepy, or weren’t serious. There were only two reliable contenders: a friendly looking exercise fanatic and university IT specialist with whom I have a mutual friend.

I went with the IT specialist, a 29-year-old I’ll call Brian. We wrote back and forth for a little bit and it sounded like he was looking for a somewhat serious relationship. Instead of abandoning him to go get coffee, I made strawberry banana muffins so I could spend a little more time getting to know what he was all about.


Photo by Susan Zalkind

The next afternoon Brian came over and got to work. Sparks weren’t exactly flying, but I tried to keep an open mind—that is, until he told me he had a wife. I watched him dig his shovel into a heavy mound of ice chunks, as he explained this whole open relationship thing. In another situation, the wife thing would have been a deal-breaker. But so long as he kept digging, at least it wasn’t a total waste of my time.


Photo by Susan Zalkind