GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — A bartender at Quaker Steak & Lube in Grand Island got a huge surprise last Thursday that allowed the single mother to take her three children to the Nebraska State Fair and catch up on her bills.
A truck driver paid his bill of $89.72 and then tipped Kari Anthony $1,000.
Anthony, a Grand Island resident who has been employed at Quaker Steak & Lube for several weeks, was working the evening shift. She said the man who left the massive tip was seated at the bar when she started her shift.
"He was paying as he went, and I let him know that he didn't have to cash out every single time, and if he wanted, he could put everything on a tab and cash him out at the end," Anthony said.
She engaged him in conversation like any other customer, she said, and he was talking to a few other people. He paid for their meals and drinks, too.
Anthony said the man was a truck driver who had "just stopped off the Interstate." She said he had reached his driving limit and was spending the night at the Bosselman Travel Center, where Quaker Steak & Lube is, off Interstate 80 at the Highway 281 junction.
Anthony said most truck drivers leave tips between $2 and $5. When she saw the tip, she said she told him that she "greatly appreciated it, but he didn't have to. But he insisted on it."
After Anthony repeated several times that the man didn't have to leave such a big tip, and the truck driver held firm, Anthony asked her shift manager to talk with him.
"I was really nervous and shocked," Anthony said.
She said after her shift manager talked with the truck driver for nearly 10 minutes, she went back to Anthony, who said she was "shaking really bad" by that time, and told her that the truck driver was "dead serious and insisted on wanting to leave the tip."
During the conversation with the truck driver, Anthony said, she told him about her three kids, and he asked her where she was from because of her accent.
When she told the truck driver that she was from Tennessee, he said that he had some "exwives that live down in Tennessee."
After more conversation about Tennessee, he asked her about her kids and if she was a single mom, which led to the truck driver talking about his mother. Anthony said she and the truck driver shared information about each other's family and how important family was.
"I guess we were able to relate a little bit," she said.
The truck driver also told Anthony to do something good for her kids.
Because of the generous tip, she did something for her kids that she otherwise couldn't afford to do: She took them to the State Fair on Sunday.
"They got to go to the fair and play games and all the other stuff," Anthony said. "Normally, because of situations, I would have not been able to do that. But I was able to because of that gentleman. I am just extremely grateful."