Bub ran the barbershop for 50 years just like Ray has turned out to do. When he finally retires, as he keeps saying he's going to do, Jayme, the young lady barber working the chair beside his, will probably take over.
Ray is an old guy, set in his ways. A nice guy, but stuck in his time, retrograde and non-progressive except for in the '70s when he learned how to cut long hair. It was two days after the tragic murders of five police officers in Dallas following what had been a peaceful protest. The news reports I read off Facebook said the sniper who did the shooting was not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. People like Ray are still going to associate them, though.
"Just terrible, those five policemen getting killed," Ray said while bent over, looking at the side of my head and clipping the unruly hairs.
"It's a tragedy," I agreed. "I feel terrible for their families. I pray for them."
The five officers killed were: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson.
"I tell ya, ya get a bunch of people in a situation like that, blockin' the streets and shoutin,' carryin' signs and it's just askin' for trouble and you got people bringin' their kids out when they should be at home eatin' supper. I tell ya what I think, it's a bunch of hypocrites, all those black people protestin' the cops. First sign of trouble and they go runnin' behind the police to protect them."
"I think they would say they weren't protesting police," I said. "They were protesting police misconduct."
"You talk about misconduct. A policeman tells you to do somethin', you do it," Ray said as my graying middle aged hair fell from his barber's scissors to the floor." That's all they gotta do. Do what they tell you to and you won't get killed."
"Well, yes, you should comply with the cops," I said. "If someone is resistant, however, I think killing is extreme. It should be a last resort, something an officer doesn't do unless he feels his life is threatened."
"It was threatened," Ray said, his voice raised for emphasis. "We need Obama or someone the black people'll listen to to come on TV and say, 'listen, he robbed a store, then he was wrestlin' with a cop, trying to get his gun so he got capped.' And I don't understand why anyone would be recordin' with a phone after her boyfriend got shot. I think those phone cameras are the worst thing's ever been invented."
It wasn't clear whether Ray was talking about Michael Brown, Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. He appeared to have the people and situations mixed up.
Or maybe Ray just lumped them all together.
"Well as I understand it," I said, "that one guy, Philando Castile in Minnesota, was just sitting in his car, doing everything he was supposed to do. He let the officer know he had a permit to carry a gun like you're supposed to do and he was shot."
"I think there's some proof he didn't have a permit," Ray said. "He was reachin' down. He looked like a robbery suspect. What are you gonna do?"
Ray was quiet for a minute while applying Bay Rum to the nape of my neck after shaving it clean. Then he continued on talking.
"Now what I like was that black mama slappin' the shit out of her kid for bein' out there. She was a good one, I'd like to see more of 'em like that."
"I think the vast majorities of protests are peaceful just as I believe most cops are conscientious," I said.
Ray talked about how the protest in Dallas wasn't peaceful, how Black Lives Matter had led to the deaths of the five police officers. I told him I'd read in the news that the protest had been peaceful and was over when the sniper started shooting and that he was not connected with the BLM movement.
"Why aren't they protesting those five officers who were killed?"
"They've condemned the killings," I said. I told him about the images I'd seen on TV of BLM folks and police in Dallas hugging and crying together.
"I think them Black Lives Matters people are responsible for the police killings," the old guy who Ray called Slim said. "They went and stirred up some shit, and they're racist. Hell, we're all human beins' bleedin red. Them cops, them blue lives, don't they matter?"
"Of course all lives matter," I said. "When they say black lives matter, they're not saying other lives don't. I believe they feel black lives have been treated as dispensable, that systematic racism has treated their lives as if they don't matter."
"Oh, I've heard all that shit before," Ray said as he brushed the hairs from the back of my neck . A bunch of cryin' and whinin' and bitchin."
"Always cryin' race," Slim said.
"That's what they always come back to," Ray said as he sprayed Tea Tree Tonic to my finished haircut. "I'll tell you what, you wanna make them protesters leave, just offer 'em a job. They'll cut loose real fast."
I stepped down from the barber's chair, just as Jayme walked in. "Morning, Jayme," I said. "Morning, Jeff. Looks like Ray took good care of you."
"Ray's the man," I said after, shifting a side glance at my haircut in the side of the mirror. We get along great, Ray and I even though he sometimes calls me a "liberal socialist." The old man's been cutting my hair since I was a little kid. He knew I was going car shopping that day, having recently totaled my old car, hitting a deer. I was using a rental.
"You oughta be able to Jew that car salesman down good with a fresh haircut like that," he said.
"Thank you very much for the haircut Ray," I said as I handed him a 10 and a 5 dollar bill. He handed me three dollars back, but I told him he could keep the change. He thanked me.
Sometimes I get my hair cut at the Old Town Barber College in downtown Wichita where I can get a haircut for $6. Most of the student barbers there are young women and black and Hispanic males. I wonder where the conversation would go if they weighed in on the divisiveness between police and African Americans.
I've read how the Dallas Police Dept. has been heralded as a model for the country for relations between black activists and police. I hope more people can come together, but how do you get past all the narrow minds that fuel the trash talk we encounter in barbershops, bars, the work place and all over social media?
It's in the news how BLM leaders and police in Wichita will co-sponsor a barbecue this Sunday. I hope for the best.