by Buffy Pollock for the Mail Tribune
MEDFORD — Wearing dark clothes on a freezing night, Grant Hidy was hardly banking on drivers seeing him and his stalled-out motorcycle Monday on the side of Columbus Avenue, much less anyone stopping to help.
Biking home from work in the frigid fog, Hidy’s beard, goggles and hands already were icing up as he mentally calculated his remaining fuel.
“I have an issue with my fuel gauge, so I track miles on my bike by looking at the odometer,” he said Thursday. “I thought I had, like, 10 more miles’ worth of gas in there. … And I didn’t.”
He pulled his bike down Fourth Street and planned a mile-and-a-half walk home to grab a gas can.
“I wasn’t going to call my old lady and ask her for help,” Hidy said. “She was home with the kids getting them ready for bed. So it just was what it was.”
Almost as soon as he had parked, Medford mom Tina Smithee-Ortiz and her 4-year-old daughter, Clover, slowed to check on the stranded biker. The duo had just finished drying laundry at a nearby laundromat.
A mother of three who lives in a studio apartment on a fixed income, Smithee-Ortiz didn’t hesitate to stop and offer what little she had.
“I thought, ‘Is that guy having a problem?’” she recalled. “My daughter, Clover, was like, ‘Why don’t you ask him?’”
Not taking “no” for an answer even though Hidy offered it up more than once, Smithee-Ortiz headed off to use her remaining $1.75 for “as much gas as it would get me.”
“He told me I didn’t have to, but I wasn’t asking,” she said. “It was more that I just told him we would go get him some gas.”
Smithee-Ortiz planned to use her remaining seven quarters the next time she needed to go to the laundromat, but helping Hidy was a better way to use them.
“The funny thing is I never have cash on me. I had just gone to the laundromat, so I drew out $20 and I got $15 in gas and had $5 to dry our clothes,” she said, noting that her studio apartment has a washer but no dryer, resulting in trips to laundromats when it’s too cold to hang things outside.
Smithee-Ortiz downplayed the favor and wished Hidy a safe drive home.
Hours later, Hidy posted about the incident on Facebook in hopes of finding his Good Samaritan for a proper thank you.
Touched by the generosity of a stranger and her willingness to help a self-described “big, hairy, tatted up biker” on the side of the road, Hidy treated the mother to a gift card to help with holiday shopping.
“I didn’t get a chance to say no. She just said, ‘I’ve got a gas can,’ and took off,” he said, noting that he mailed her a gift card despite her continued protest.
Smithee-Ortiz said her reward came from her daughter’s excitement over helping.
“She was like, ‘We made a new friend!’”
A friend text-messaging Smithee-Ortiz saw Hidy’s post.
“I told her about the guy on the bike, and said I just hoped it had been enough to get him where he was going,” Smithee-Ortiz said.
Hidy was raised by a single mother, who set the example for helping others “no matter how little she had.”
“She tried to downplay it all but, I mean, it was a big deal to me. Nobody would’ve stopped. I told her, ‘I look like a serial killer,’” he joked. “Nobody’s going to stop and ask me if I need any help. When I go into grocery stores, security follows me around like I’m going to steal something.”
Smithee-Ortiz said she only responded to Hidy’s post — after being tagged — in hopes the story would inspire others to be more kind.
“Like I said, if I was broken down, I just hope someone would care enough to stop and ask if everything was OK,” she said.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.