A déjà vu moment becomes reality

There’s something incredibly familiar about this place — almost like déjà vu.

Déjà vu is a French phrase that literally means “already seen.” Americans use the label to describe the phenomenon of having a strong sensation of previously experiencing a situation or event.

People who get paid to study such things say déjà vu is a common occurrence — about two-thirds of the population has experienced it. Psychologists believe it’s usually life’s more mundane details like the tick of an old clock or the shadows on a tablecloth that can prompt a sudden and sometimes breathtaking sense of familiarity.

For me, it was a parking place.

The strange feeling started when I turned into the alley between 10th and 11th streets. It wasn’t first-day-on-the-job jitters. It wasn’t fatigue from retraining my biorhythms to accept mornings again. And it certainly wasn’t fear of the unknown.

It was déjà vu.

There were vehicles in the little gravel parking lot: A red Buick, a white Subaru, another small gray car in a make I didn’t recognize. The end spot at the base of an electric pole near the dumpster and the alley was empty.

Five days a week through 10 years and four vehicles, I parked in that very spot. This was something I’d already seen.

I’ve been gone from The Times for a little more than two years. I look at that period now as an extended vacation. I wasn’t sure if someone else had claimed that parking spot in my absence but as of Monday, it became my natural landing place once again. It was as if the last two years were swiped away and that day fit into my routine as it always had — déjà vu.

I know they say you never really go home once you’ve left, but there’s a pretty good chance that whoever “they” are is wrong.

People change, places change. There’s no guarantee “home” will look or feel or smell the same once you’ve been gone awhile. But I believe home is where you feel like you belong, regardless of whether the keyboard is uncomfortable or the telephone rings differently.

I’ve seen this old, familiar place a thousand times. I hope to see it a thousand more.