At first, the waitress mistook her customer’s generosity for faulty math.
He had left a $1,000 tip on a $500 tab.
But when Danielle Gray checked the bill, everything added up. Christmas had come early for the single mother.
The customer, a regular, had taken about a dozen co-workers to a holiday luncheon Thursday at Hemingway’s American Bar and Grill in Wantagh.
“I just went over there, like ‘I don’t know what to say. Thank you so, so much,’ and I gave him a hug,’ ” Gray, 29, recalled Friday.
She said he replied: “ ‘Merry Christmas. You guys have always treated me well here, and I just wanted to pass along the Christmas spirit and fun.’ ”
Gray, who lives in Wantagh, remains overwhelmed by the sudden windfall brightening the holidays.
“It has completely helped me out, especially with my daughter at Christmastime,” she said. “I feel like I can really give her the Christmas she deserves, and it will help with the bills. It took a lot of stress off me.”
Under the tree, daughter Riley, who turns 2 in March, will find clothes and gifts — most notably a hot pink, remote-controlled toy car.
“It’s probably nicer than my car,” said her mother, who drives a 2006 Nissan she bought for $1,500.
Her customer, a local merchant, preferred to go unnamed. Giving anonymously keeps “the magic,” he said.
“I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve, so if I’m in a position to extend myself a little bit, I consider it a gift.”
Gray, who doubles as a bartender, has witnessed her benefactor’s generosity before.
“A couple of times, he’s picked up checks for strangers at the bar — and he doesn’t want me to tell them until he’s gone,” she said.
“He’s just a really fun, bubbly personality,” she added. “He’s just always putting a smile on people’s faces.”
Gray, a Florida native who moved to Long Island to be with her boyfriend in 2016, said she hopes to become a cosmetologist.
Hemingway manager Edyie Berg understands what qualities might have inspired the customer to single Gray out for a once-in-a-lifetime tip.
“She’s beautiful inside and out,” Berg said. “She has a great personality. The staff and customers absolutely adore her. She goes above and beyond, she really does.”
When her co-workers learned of the customer’s largesse, Berg said, “everybody was very shocked and surprised — and happy” for Gray, though the restaurant doesn’t pool tips.
The manager added with a laugh:
“Everybody thought, ‘Why couldn’t it be me?’ ”