Randé Fleming has been working as a taxi driver for two years and has never been one to sit idle, but he was off the streets for nearly two months beginning in late March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He’s been back at work at City Cab since early May and said things are improving.
“Business is picking up,” he said. “It really is, believe it or not.”
The entire pandemic experience has been a series of ups and downs.
“The second the pandemic started, all the cab companies got outrageously busy all at once,” he said.
But as the pandemic got worse, company owner Joshua Bruno made the decision to shut down, Fleming said.
“We did it for safety reasons,” he said. “He was concerned about us and our families. We wanted to know what the precautions were.”
Bruno, who took over the business two years ago after his father, Jeffrey Bruno, died, said he made the decision to shut down as soon as an emergency was declared. He currently has three employees and is still working to get some of his former drivers back to work. Meanwhile he’s trying to regain his footing.
“It’s been kind of splotchy,” Bruno said. “I’d say it’s definitely less than it was before, but not a lot less.”
Fleming said that some other cab companies chose to stay open. He kept busy by working on the vans City Cab uses as taxis. When he first started driving again, he was nervous about getting sick.
“At first I was concerned about it,” he said.
But Fleming has been taking precaution and said he no longer worries about it.
“I don’t because I have a mask on,” he said. “I’m fine with it.”
He carries disposable masks to hand out to customers that need one, and he wears cloth masks.
“We’ve got hand sanitizer in there,” he said. “When someone gets out of the van, we’ll wipe everything down. That’s a must.”
Fleming drives during the day and said he’s seeing a lot of new customers.
“People who normally take Uber are coming back to us,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of airport runs now.”
He thinks one thing attracting the new customers is City Cab’s rates, which haven’t changed in years. They charge $4.60 for the first mile and then $2.60 per mile.
“We are the cheapest in town,” he said. “In some cases, we’re even beating Uber.”
City Cab also has several contracts, including agreements to pick up and drop off people from the local hospitals. A part of the job Fleming is particularly proud of is the cab company’s contract with Vitalent, which requires drivers to take blood platelets to places like Lewiston and Walla Walla at a moment’s notice.
Fleming said he once made a middle-of-the-night delivery to Montana for Vitalent, driving through a heavy snowstorm to deliver platelets to a man who needed emergency surgery. Fleming said he was told that his delivery likely saved a life, and he’s pleased he was able to help someone in need.
“We have a really good time doing it,” he said.
Fleming previously worked as a land surveyor and engineer in Florida before moving to Spokane and putting his woodworking skills to use as a custom cabinet maker at Huntwood Industries. His hand was nearly severed in an industrial accident, and he lost a finger. Even after several surgeries and physical therapy he didn’t have full use of his hand, so he turned to taxi driving. It was a good fit.
“I’m a people person,” he said. “I like talking to people.”
He started off at City Cab and then tried another cab company for a few months until Bruno asked him to come back. Fleming was happy to return.
“This is more of a family here,” he said. “It’s really nice.”
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