Michael Martone -- professor of creative writing, award-winning short-story writer and son of retired Fort Wayne Community Schools Asst. Superintendent Patty Martone -- has a piece in the August Harper's magazine ("Contributor's Note," Page 28), reprinted from the Autumn/Winter 2004 issue of The Journal. In it, he chronicles his encounters over the years with next-door neighbor Ed Mensing, an assitant fire chief in Fort Wayne whose job was fire prevention. Most exciting, Martone writes (in the third person), "was when, every fall, Martone saw his neighbor on television during Fire Prevention Week, when all the schools in the city school system participated in one huge fire drill, the only fire drill that wasn't a surprise. Martone watched as Mr. Mensing (surrounded by the mayor, the school superintendent, other fire chiefs, insurance agents, radio announcers announcing and television weathermen commenting) pushed a button after all the other officials made speeches about fire safety. When Mr. Mensing, dressed up in his formal white hat and gloves, pushed the button, the fire alarms sounded all over the city: the sirens, whistles, horns, buzzers, bells. Everyone pretended the whole city was ablaze."
The most interesting passage to me is when Martone describes Mensing's newspaper-reading habits (we all like to read about our own little slice of the community): "For as long as he could, Mr. Mensing read the evening newspaper, the News-Sentinel, while sitting in a lawn chair just inside his glass storm door, his back to the door, what little light there was falling over his shoulders to illuminate the open pages he held up. He was there in the morning, too, sitting in the webbed lawn chair inside his door, reading the morning newspaper, the Journal-Gazette. Even in winter, he sat in the doorway, collecting that pale light transmitted through the frosted glass."
I never knew Mensing, but he sounds like a conscientious public-safety employee and a good person. Well, except for that part about reading the Journal Gazette every morning.