A couple of months ago, I took a train from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano. Two friendly-faced young black men were talking quietly in their seats across the aisle. At some point the not so young white woman who sat in front of me called across the aisle “excuse me, please do not use that word.” And just in case it was not clear, she called out the letters “F-U-C-K”.
The word fuck was not even used as a swear word in their conversation and the black young men looked at her with some bemusement.
"Why do you object to the word?” I asked. “I am an English teacher” was her response. “Yes?” I said. “This is not a nice word” was her explanation. “Fucking is a word for something rather nice, actually” I said “don’t you think?” This was too much for the lady; she got up and said, “I am getting the train supervisor.”
A few minutes later, she returned with the ticket collector who asked the black men to refrain from using blasphemous language on the train. “You must also tell him,” the white moral authority said pointing at me and the ticket collector told me to please behave on the train. Blasphemous language should not be used on the train, I was told, not even in private conversations. I asked about my rights under the First Amendment, and whether they do not allow me to say fuck on the train. But the ticket collector said no, adding that she did have the authority to instruct me.