On Friday evenings, I gather with a bunch of creative types at a Forest Park home. We have filmmakers, photographers, writers, painters and a textile artist. We meet in a basement that brings back warm memories of sitting in basements during the ’70s. We’re not actual starving artists because we bring food to share. We also share ideas and network to help each other out. With a group like this, you can bet that a big word pops out every now and then. So when a filmmaker sprang the word “propinquity” on us, he had to define it.
Propinquity [pro-PEEN-kwitee] comes from the Latin word meaning “nearness.” It’s a social phenomenon that means we tend to form relationships with people who are in close proximity or share our interests and beliefs. This can happen in the workplace or in schools. It can also occur with people living on the same floor of an apartment building, or with next-door neighbors.
After I understood the word, I realized we have a good deal of propinquity right here in Forest Park. Our living space is compact and our houses are close together. Our businesses are within walking distance for many of us. This is why we have so many chance encounters in town. Our propinquity is off the charts compared to towns suffering from suburban sprawl.
Aside from local propinquity, I would never have met my wife without the “p” word. Many romances, like ours, begin in the workplace. We wouldn’t have met our wonderful neighbors, if we weren’t all squeezed together. I’m thankful for the propinquity that allows us to dine, shop and drink in nearby businesses. It’s no wonder there is so much serendipity around here.
Aside from physical proximity, propinquity also occurs when we share interests and political beliefs. We have many political discussions in the basement. We share a passion for expressing our beliefs through our artistic endeavors — that is, when we’re not driving for Uber, selling real estate, or process-serving to pay the bills.
Gathering with like-minded people can lift the spirits. We encourage each other and applaud each other on “Show & Tell” nights, or when it’s someone’s birthday. The camaraderie is wonderful.
However, I found out there are practices in our society that lower our propinquity level. They are the usual suspects: instant messaging, video conferences and internet communication. Texting is a necessary evil when we want to communicate with our kids, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
Talking on the phone isn’t the same, and it makes me so nervous, I walk around the block while I’m talking. You can imagine how many chance encounters I have during these conversations. Propinquity is also important in the detective business. I have to occupy the same space at the same time as the unsuspecting person, and it isn’t easy.
Socially, we raise our propinquity level when we frequent the same bars or restaurants. We build relationships with staff members and regulars. On a recent Saturday, I went to my favorite watering hole to celebrate signing a publishing agreement and finishing a documentary that took six years. I shared my good news with the staff. Then the regulars started coming in. Then an entire family I knew walked in to celebrate the memory of their mother. I also shared my good news with a woman from Mercy Home I had just interviewed. The propinquity was spectacular!
Another reason I refuse to move west of the Des Plaines River.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.