Nashville to Nepal Vol. 1: The Lyft

My journey to Mt. Everest officially began with a lift to my auto mechanic in on Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee — elevation 597 feet.

Technically, it was a Lyft rather than a lift, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The calendar read Aug. 17, 2016, the day before I was to leave my communications job of 3 1/2 years. Since turning 50 in March, a nagging feeling of “Exactly what are you doing with your life?” had been swelling, making me re-evalute my career. Was this the dreaded mid-life crisis? I had no idea. But I knew that time was passing much faster than I was comfortable with, like when you lose control while running down a steep hill.

To make things even more interesting, the weather had been thickly humid and scalding hot for weeks with no relief in sight, and the air-conditioner in my truck decided to become a heater instead.

That morning, I dropped the truck off at my mechanic, Ewing Bass Garage, and Ubered back to the office. It was the first time I’d ever used Uber myself. Ironically, I had applied to a communications job with Lyft, Uber’s competition, the night before. So late that afternoon, when I was notified that my truck was ready, I thought, “Why not try Lyft?”

I downloaded the app and requested a ride. My phone informed me that Dawa Jangbu would be my driver. A few minutes later, a bright red Nissan sedan pulled up to my office front door. As I stepped into the front passenger seat, the driver asked, “Mark?”

“Dawa?”

“Yes!” he said with a grin. “You pronounced it correctly!”

Dawa was a slight but athletic-looking man, youthful and caramel brown with a wispy black mustache and a quick smile. He spoke English elegantly with an accent I couldn’t pinpoint, but it had Indian overtones. We initiated a brisk conversation about Lyft after I admitted that part of my reason for requesting his services was to give the company a once-over. We arrived at the garage 10 minutes later, chatting away. As I went to step out of the vehicle, I asked Dawa his nationality.

“I’m Nepalese,” he said.

Insert screeching wheels sound effect here. I turned and sat back down in the car.

“Really? My wife and I have a bucket-list item that involves an Everest Base Camp trek! Do you know anything about this?”

Some years ago, Holly and I both read the Jon Krakauer novel, “Into Thin Air,” about his involvement with a 1996 Mt. Everest disaster that killed eight mountain climbers. We’ve been fascinated by the idea of a Base Camp hike ever since.

Are Holly and I hikers? Nope. Have we ever been out of the country, other than to Cancun, which doesn’t really count? Nope.

These are minor details, say I. Have you seen this place, Nepal? Have you seen the otherworldly landscape of stone and snow? Or the alpine flora and fauna? The aqua-blue glacial lakes, the prayer flags, the Buddhist temples, the yaks and cattle with their clanking bells? Most of all, perhaps, we are intrigued by the idea of doing something exotic and life-changing during our kids’ formative years to show them that the world is their oyster.

Dawa grinned at me as if he relished what he was about to say.

“I’m a Sherpa,” he said slowly. “I was born and raised in the Everest Region of Nepal. I’ve made the Everest Base Camp trek many times.”

I put my feet back in and shut the car door.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, staring at him.

“No, it’s true! I will meet you and your wife for coffee and we will discuss it!” He said this as if it was a foregone conclusion. “But I have another ride waiting for me now, so I must go.”

We exchanged phone numbers and just like that, he was gone. I watched as his little red Nissan merged out into Charlotte Avenue traffic and sped out of sight.

I noticed my mouth was hanging open, so I closed it and tried to process what had just happened.  I had received a ride — no, a LYFT — to Ewing Bass Garage from a Nepalese Sherpa in Nashville, Tennessee.

Elevation 597 feet.

Goosebumps appeared on my arms in defiance of the August sun. Something was afoot here.

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