Elevate Difference

The Constant Rider Omnibus: Stories from the Public Transportation Front

This second edition of _The Constant Rider Omnibus _collects issues 1-7 of Kate Lopresti’s zine of “stories from the public transportation front.” The first issue dates from September 2000 and chronicles the author’s holiday travels during a week riding Amtrak and VIA Rail (Canada’s rail system). The most recent issue included is from spring 2005 and covers tales of “celebrity sightings” associated with public transit. In between is everything from bus riding manners and romance (issue #6) to what people on the bus are reading (issue #4) to tales of passengers traveling in altered states (issue #2).

Lopresti lives in Portland, Oregon and uses both her bike and public transportation to get around town. She encounters a lot of intriguing folks while en route, and she describes them with a sharp wit that really makes them come alive. Because Lopresti is gifted at relaying details, in just a few words she can reveal the people she comes across as multifaceted and real.

At her best, Lopresti does an excellent job pacing her stories, revealing just enough to keep the reader wanting more. Many of her narratives end with a clever “pow,” some witty remark that completes the piece and leaves a feeling of satisfaction. However, as a high school English teacher might write at the top of Lopresti’s composition, sometimes her pieces come to an end, but not a conclusion. Those stories left me wanting more too, just not in a good way. But a few bland endings don’t keep the collection from being a fun read. Overall, I was quite entertained by this book. I think Lopresti is a talented writer, and I enjoyed watching her abilities improve from one issue to the next.

This anthology is really perfect for reading on the bus or train. It’s slender, only 125 pages, so it is easily slipped into a backpack, messenger bag, or tote. None of the pieces are more than a few pages long, so it’s easy to read snippets on short rides or during short waits. Some pieces are amusing enough to read over and over again, so with this book in your bag, you always have a handy distraction if your travel plans go awry or you need to ignore a fellow commuter who seems to be getting too friendly.

Since spring is here, I’ve been riding my bike to work instead of catching the bus, so I read this whole book in a couple of big chunks while sprawled out on my bed. However, I really do recommend savoring Kate Lopresti’s words in smaller portions while commuting, during those times you would rather not bond with the bus driver or the other passengers.

Written by: Chantel C. Guidry, April 17th 2008

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