PROBLEMS with a bathtub on the tenth floor. A call came in to the building department, down in the nether catacombs that were the subbasement. The dispatcher answered the phone. “Uh-huh, stopper doesn’t work.… Right.… Ten forty-nine.… We’ll send someone right up.”
Tony Villafane was free and was given the assignment. He was one of four plumbers on duty. They were needed. Every day, there were three to five clogged toilets, a couple of improperly draining sinks, some broken pipes. Guests threw things down the pipes—combs, cups, rags. The plumbers had to root them out.
“Most of the calls are to report stoppages,” Villafane told me on the way up to the room. “Dripping we don’t get too much of anymore, because everything is new. Before we replaced ...