Donald Trump and the Good Samaritan

Donald Trump
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As told by a reader:

A mechanic is driving down the street and notices a Mercedes pulled over on the side of the road.  The mechanic pulls over and offers to help the stranded motorist, whom he recognizes to be Donald Trump.  Mr. Trump at first was wary of the man's offer, but as he was stranded he decided to accept.
The car is fixed in no time, and the man declines Trump's repeated offer of a reward.  Finally, the man gives in and tells the real estate magnate that if he really wants to reward him, would he send flowers to his wife?  It's their anniversary, and she would really get a kick out of that, he says.
The next day the mechanic's wife receives four dozen roses.  The card, signed by Donald Trump, read: "Happy anniversary. By the way, I have paid off your mortgage."

As told by a reader:

A man is driving on a deserted road and comes to see a man on the side of that road with a flat tire. The driver stops his car and offers to help. When he is done, the grateful man asks him for his address to send him a reward for helping him. The helpful man declines and declines, but finally, gives in. Then both men get in their cars and drive off.
Two weeks later, the man receives a letter in the mail that says: "Thank you for helping me, here is a little something to say thanks. Signed, Donald Trump."
Inside is a check for $10,000.

As told by a reader:

An auto mechanic who specialized in BMWs was driving on Interstate 5 and spotted a BMW on the shoulder of the road, with the driver standing beside it. The mechanic stopped and asked if there was anything he could help with. The driver thanked him and explained that he had called BMW's roadside assistance line and was now just waiting for the BMW person to show up.
The mechanic offered his business card and explained that he specialized in repairing BMWs, again offering to see if he could help, with no obligation. Perhaps he could save the driver a long wait. Again, he was thanked for the offer and turned down politely.
He insisted and was finally allowed to look at the car. He found nothing more than a loose wire, reattached it, and the car ran fine.
The driver turned out to be Bill Gates.
Mysteriously, the mechanic's house mortgage was fully paid up the next week.


I'm told that billionaire Donald Trump corroborated this story — the version that applies to him, at any rate — during a 2005 episode of Celebrity Apprentice. Good on him.

While he certainly could be telling the truth, we have reason to be skeptical, however, not least because many other famous people — Bill Gates, Perry Como, Louis Armstrong, Mrs. Nat King Cole and Leon Spinks, to cite just a few — have been named as the grateful celebrity in variants of this selfsame tale told before and after the Trump version began circulating. According to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand there are versions dating back to the 1950s, when Donald Trump was but a lad.

True or false, we're drawn to urban legends like these because they humanize larger-than-life public figures we ordinarily only get to observe from afar. For my money, the crucial moment in the narrative isn't when Trump or Bill Gates rewards the good Samaritan for his or her good deed — it comes before that, when the celebrity of choice is revealed to be vulnerable and needing help from a stranger, as if he were an ordinary mortal no different from you or me. The quasi-mythological figure is brought down to earth.

We love snooty celebrity comeuppance stories for the same reason. We revere the rich and famous, but it's a reverence tinged with envy.