A few days ago I mentioned that a friend once told me you could sell used ash trays on eBay, capitalizing on the human conditions of gullibility and compulsive spending.

Since then, some folks have expressed doubts to me about that.

Well folks, just listen up. On today's Associated Press wires is a story out of Miami where a person put up for bids a partially-eaten 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich that she claims bears the image of the Virgin Mary. She got bids as high as $22,000 before eBay pulled it off auction. The web page had more than 100,000 hits.

The eBay people told Diana Duyser that the sandwich violated some particle of its sales policy and canceled the auction.

But, Duyser, a jewelry designer who has bought and sold items on eBay for two years, insisted this was not a laughing matter.

Duyser, 52, said she took a bite of the sandwich after making it 10 years ago and saw a face staring back at her from the bread. She put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand.

At first, she said she was scared by the image but then decided to share it with the world. The sandwich, she added, has never sprouted a spore of mold.

I am not saying that her claim is not sincere nor that the image doesn't resemble the Virgin Mary. What I'm talking about here is the power of suggestion that something like this is so valuable.

My guess is that if you went to the Middle East, perhaps somewhere in the area where King Saul camped out, and found a small stone that had a tinge of red tint, you could convince some people that it was the very stone with which David killed Goliath. It could fetch a high price with the right story concocted.

Now there are Virgin Mary stories all over the world. There are statues that are supposed to shed tears and there are images that appear and there was that case of the American farm lady to whom Mary supposedly would appear and have conversations. Thousands of people would converge on her farm to hear what Mary had to say. Whatever happened to her, by the way?

Again, I'm not saying that there aren't images that resemble the Virgin Mary. I'm not even saying that they haven't appeared through Divine transport. I'm just saying that I've never seen one. I once saw a potato that looked like Bob Hope. And while drifting down the river one day, I saw a gnarl on an old tree that resembled Jay Leno. Then I saw a stump on a sandbar that, at some great distance, looked much like a panther -- so much so that I froze in position. But a blue heron landed on it and eased my anxiety.

I'm not sure what my reaction would be if I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich and the image of the Virgin Mary appeared to me. Not being Catholic, I might not have even noticed. To me it could have resembled Cher or a map of St. George Island. And being Baptist -- who invented dinner-on-the-grounds -- I may already have been reaching for some potato salad and never saw anything but calories.

I realize that some people see "signs" and read a lot of stuff into them.

When I was a kid, I used to lie on my back and pick shapes out of the clouds. I remember one that looked like Abe Lincoln. But I did not suppose that it was a sign to vote Republican or to never sit in a balcony at the theater. But I did marry a lady whose maiden name is Booth. Whoa! .... I've never put that together until now! You reckon ..... naw, I'm just not a signs person.

Anyway, on the point of used ash trays and gullibility, I rest my case. In fact, it's a leather case, and after I spilled a cup of coffee on it and if the light hits it just right, I can make out Elvis, or maybe it's Conway Twitty. Any bids?

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