My (almost) encounter with the man, the myth, the legend, Harrison Ford

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It’s the half-lipped grin, the crinkle of the hazel eyes and the furrow of the eyebrows. It’s the smile, short in time but genuine in nature. The notorious wink and the optimistic spirit, paired with quiet, yet soul-stirring movie lines like, “Chewie, we’re home.” 

It was this face, the one that I’d seen up close in the movies of my childhood, the face that took me to worlds other than my own, such as the galaxies “far, far away” and the lands of the Lost Worlds. It was the face of Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and Han Solo, all in one, that I saw across a freezer last summer, while I was working at a local Berkeley ice cream shop — or at least I think it was. 

It was an unusually cool summer evening — Aug. 16, 2019, to be exact. The busiest night of the week and the busiest hour of the night. A line snaked out the door of the small shop. Sounds of chatter from large groups of friends, shrieks from excited children, noses glued to the lit-up glass protecting the ice cream and the low rumble of overworked freezers all buzzed in the air. 

On busy nights like this one, an ice cream scooper goes into autopilot: collect order, scoop flavor, place into cone, hand to stranger and repeat. And only when the ice cream scooper receives a genuine “thank you” or an unconventional order, or when Harrison Ford shows up and requests a chocolate cone, does this autopilot fail, sending the scooper back into a world beyond waffle cones and sticky ice cream. 

Now, I’ve never been good at celebrity sightings or just generally knowing the names of celebrities to begin with. But when I looked up to take my next order that busy, chilly Friday night, I was looking at the same half-grinning and crinkle-eyed face of my childhood. I saw the unruly, but intentional, hair and the piercing on his left earlobe, and I heard that low and casual voice. Harrison Ford wasn’t looking through a camera screen this time — he was looking at me. 

On busy Friday nights, the goal is to serve ice cream quickly and move on. But once I matched the blaster pistol-carrying, tan cargo shirt-wearing Harrison Ford, with the man just across the colorful array of ice cream flavors, I slowed my working pace. Although I’m sure I was being less casual than I imagined, I studied his face, trying to ingrain a carbon copy of what I was seeing into my memory.

Unfortunately, luck wasn’t in my flavor that evening, and I wasn’t working the cash register, eliminating my chances of sneaking a quick peek at his receipt to confirm his name. And as soon as I had handed Harrison Ford and whom I assumed to be his wife, Calista Flockhart, their cones, they were out of my vision and a pushy teenager behind them had already asked for his first five flavor samples. 

That night, the first thing I did when I got home was Google current photos of Harrison Ford. And to my disappointment, I found that his most current photos included a beard and made him look significantly older than the Harrison Ford I saw in the shop. 

Friends have advised me to view my possible Harrison Ford encounter in two ways: One, accept that it wasn’t him, and move on. Or two, hold onto what my gut told me and use the story as a fun fact in those awkward ice breaker games. 

And as much as I’d love to accept the latter, nine months later, that late August evening continues to parade itself in my doubts, leaving me to this day still unsure which story to tell. Did I really see the Harrison Ford? Or did I see a look-alike while my mind played tricks and the burden of scooping ice cream finally outran my sense of sanity? 

But over time, I have come to realize that knowing if I was actually serving ice cream to the real Harrison Ford is unimportant, and what has left me restless with memory is the fact that I never asked. Harrison Ford, if you’re reading this, was it you? Can you validate this doubtful ice cream scooper’s story? 

In the 2015 movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Rey, a scavenger turned Jedi, is introduced to Han Solo for the first time. She asks, “You’re Han Solo?” to which Han Solo replies, “I used to be.”

If I had the chance to redo that night, I think I’d like it to go somewhat like this. 

Me: “You’re Harrison Ford?” looking starstruck up into his half-lipped, crinkle-eyed grin. 

Maybe-Harrison Ford: “Single scoop, chocolate cone, please.”

Contact Emily Denny at [email protected] .