Example: [Los Angeles Times, 1993]
The case brought to mind a story involving a young woman who wrote out a check at a clothes store in Marina del Rey several years ago. When the clerk asked to see her driver's license, she explained apologetically that her wallet had been stolen. But, she added, she did have one form of ID.
"I was the May centerfold in Playboy magazine," she told the clerk. "I have the centerfold here in my purse if you want to see it." She took it out. The smiles matched. Restores your faith in humanity, doesn't it?1
Origins: Sometimes even we don't recognize the latent urban legend potential of an anecdote at first glance. Such a case occurred recently — I'd seen the article quoted above before and hadn't thought twice about it, a charming little tale with nothing inherently implausible about it.
Then I picked up a copy of a little book called True Remarkable Occurrences, a slender volume of supposedly "true" anecdotes that turned out to be chock full of apocryphal urban legend-like tales. (The author's primary criterion in offering the entries as "true stories" was apparently that they had been published in books, magazines, or newspapers.) There I found a familiar-sounding article cited as having come from the London Sunday Telegraph magazine:
She was carrying a magazine in which she appeared in the nude. She handed over the magazine, hitched her sweater up to her chin, and arranged herself in the same pose.2
They cashed her check.
But then, the latter two examples include detail generally lacking in urban legend-like anecdotes.
Last updated: 15 April 2011
3. Gaspirtz, Oliver. A Treasury of Police Humor. Springfield, IL: Lincoln-Herndon, 1997. ISBN 0-942936-31-0 (p. 129). 1. Harvey, Steve. "Only in L. A." Los Angeles Times. 12 May 1993 (p. B2). 2. Train, John. True Remarkable Occurrences. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1978. ISBN 0-517-53505-X (p. 56).