Recently, Dutch science writer Maarten Keulemans had a little medical issue. And it happened to involve a serious case of unintended use. This is his story:
'See that tiny little black speck, sitting cosily in this tea strainer? It’s tiny alright – but still, the speck has stopped armies, disrupted careers and turned mighty men into weeping little babies.
It’s a little chunk of a mineral called struvite. Or rather, it’s a small kidney stone. This particular one happened to be residing in, well, my kidney.
No harm done, stones like these usually pop out by themselves. But before doing so, they have to find their way out, tentatively looking for the exit in the plumbings of your urinary tract. This hurts. This really hurts, as I experienced last night.
Many great men and minds have cried, prayed and begged for mercy in the face of this inconvenience. Epicurus, Newton and Michelangelo had stones; Alfred Hitchcock, John McCain, Billy Joel and many others had them too.
In fact, stones were what Martin Luther and John Calvin had in common, and what united Louix XIV and Napoleon. ‘Renal colic pain’ brought to their knees even Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and James Bond (Roger Moore).
‘I am at grips with the worst of all maladies’, penned down Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne in utter despair. ‘The most sudden, the most painful, and the most irremediable of all.’
Of course, once it comes out, you might want to look the enemy in the eye, if only to mock at it. And that’s where, for obvious purposes, the tea strainer comes in. It’s a standard procedure really, a hospital recommendation. I know of at least one prominent person who applied a tea strainer to this end (don’t worry K., your embarrassing little secret is safe with me).
In Dutch, there’s a proverb: when you’re really exhausted, that’s when you ‘meet the man with the hammer’.
Well, that’s nothing. Just wait until the man with the tea strainer drops by.'