Last night while waiting for the much anticipated late shipment of a first year James Stewart Calculus textbook (and yes, in the academic world the eagerness and excitement to pick up a $171.95 textbook package was rivaled only by the hype surrounding a new Harry Potter release by J.K. Rowling) we met with many obstacles that I am glad to say we overcame.
The first obstacle might be that the publisher promised them to us on August 15th, then changed that to August 31st. After that the only shipments we received were due to the publisher's sales reps driving them in to us in small quantities of about 150 or so copies of the book -- which was what they could fit in their mini-vans. (Those lasted maybe an hour - the term a snowball's chance of lasting in hell fit quite nicely as I had to face many a scowl from first year students who kept returning to the store to find the stock depleted)
The next challenge was that the shipment which was supposed to arrive by late morning had gone MIA. I worried for the longest time that the poor truck driver had driven his vehicle into some mysterious sort of Bermuda Triangle of the GTA and disappeared forever -- because the truck never showed. My text buyer, Sue was trying desperately to determine what was going on, all the while I stood on the sales floor in the empty spot where the textbooks were supposed to be, holding off ravenous first year math students with a box cutter as my only defense (okay, I had my box cutter AND my stupendously silly sense of humour)
At about 4 PM, we received a phone call that the trucks weren't coming. That, of course, was unacceptable, so Sue got the publisher's customer service rep to order a special courier. I said I wouldn't leave the store until the truck finally showed up. (We are open until 9 PM)
Near 6:30 or so, the truck driver called one of our other buyers, Rick. He was on campus. But lost. Rick set off from our loading dock to find the poor fool. After several minutes Rick disappeared and never came back, and I worried that Rick and the trucker met their fate in that Bermuda Triangle thingy . . .
So I took off heading in the opposite direction on campus and finally found the poor lost trucker guy sitting in his giant rig trying to figure out where he was going. I jumped into the cab and was able to lead him across campus to our loading dock. (Not that any of the other vehicles were even close to being considerate -- the poor guy was trying to maneuver through some tight turns while attempting NOT to squish all the little cars that tried zipping around him. Seeing this from a trucker's perspective, I'm surprised that more idiots don't die while stupidly trying to challenge such large vehicles in a battle of wills)
When we finally arrived at the loading dock, we found out that the loading ramp wasn't working. So we had to hand bomb them off the skids in the back of the truck and onto skids on the ground. Which leads to the whole purpose of this rambling post -- a tiny lesson in phrase and language.
Hand bomb is NOT synonymous with hand grenade (although the frustrations surrounding getting the new edition of this textbook into our store might have inspired some grenade throwing or use of artillery of some sort), nor does it mean the same thing as hand-job.
"Hand bomb" is a trucking industry term used when a worker has to unload a vehicle without the help of a forklift or palate jack. Although I wasn't able to find anything about this phrases origin in the half dozen etymology and word origin books I have on my shelves (yes, I'm a giant nerd - so sue me) if makes sense that the phrase could originate from the boxes being loaded or unloaded securely -- as in being "bonded" by hand. It might also refer to one of the definitions of "bomb" in my Oxford English Reference Dictionary of bomb as a slang term for "move or go quickly" -- because when you hand bomb something you tend to move the cartons more quickly than when you're taking them down a really slow palate jack.
Or perhaps someone else out there has a cool idea of where this phrase came from . . . I'm all ears.
Oh, in case you're wondering about the final fate of these textbooks - we DID get them to the sales floor by about 7:30 or so, and many students were happy and excited and we all lived happily ever after (particularly Mr. James Stewart, the author of the textbook, who will receive tons of giant royalties on sales of this book and will feel so indebted to us that he'll donate a couple of million dollars so we can open up the James Stewart Wing on our store and give our store a permanent home for our first year textbooks -- one with a loading ramp that works 24/7.