Cabbie John McDonagh began his career behind the wheel after serving in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Vietnam War. The native New Yorker has also spent the past two decades talking about the Irish freedom struggle from an Irish republican point of view on his weekly radio show, Radio Free Eireann, on WBAI New York. Additionally, he’s been writing and performing comedy over 20 years, having performed at Caroline’s, The Comic Strip, The Huntington Cinema Arts Center, the New York Society for Ethical Culture, the Puffin Room SOHO, and at Rocky Sullivan’s Pub. Keep up with McDonagh’s various thoughts via his blog, Hack Shots Of New York.
What does a regular day look like for you as a New York City cab driver?
John McDonagh: I’m up around 2:30 in the morning–I get ready, check the Internet and read the New York Times. By 3:30, I’m in a Yellow Cab, which means I am starting my 12-hour shift. And in a normal day, I do between 20 and 30 fares.
How do you balance your travel time between the five New York boroughs?
McDonagh: The main thing is to stay in Manhattan because that’s where really the work is. But if you head to Queens or Brooklyn, you try to come back the main thoroughfares, like Flatbush Avenue, Northern Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, and hoping that somebody will flag you down for a trip back to Manhattan. But spots like Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn are so popular now that you can get a lot of business out of there too.
How did you get your cab driving start?
McDonagh: When I got out of the United States Army in the mid-seventies, there wasn’t any work in New York. Cops and fireman were being laid off, which would have been the natural progression for the son of Irish immigrants. And at that time, the economy was horrible, so after my unemployment ran out, I went and got my cab license. What started out as a temporary job turned into a career 30 years later.