Even though she will be just 23 tomorrow, Xoe "Zoey" Lynch has already met close to a lifetime of people in her job as a clerk at busy 's convenience store and gas station in Healdsburg.
Despite long lines of often impatient customers, Lynch, who has lived in Healdsburg for much of her life, has built a following of customer fans because of her everpresent smile and friendly while efficient presence.
"We all get our gas at that station because she works there," said Monica Plum, bartender at Healdsburg's
"We love Zoey," Plum added. "She's one of those people that when she walks in, the whole place brightens up."
Lynch's smile and happy public face, however, were almost put in a deep freeze recently because of an incident at 2 a.m. on Nov. 14.
On that night, while watching TV with roommate Joelle Orr, Lynch's demeanor, pride, attitude, public face and pocketbook took a collective blow -- as would be expected when a grown woman loses her two front teeth.
"It was definitely not a good thing to happen -- but I'm still alive," said Lynch, who had to work a few days with a gaping hole in her mouth and a big sign that said, "I had a run-in with the tooth fairy and I can't smile today."
"It could have been so much worse," she said.
At the time of the incident, Lynch was sitting on a futon while watching TV, she said. She decided she wanted to play a DVD that was on the top shelf of a 6-foot-tall dresser standing near the futon.
Lynch said she stood up on the futon to retrieve the DVD, leaned over and lost her balance. She fell, head first, two feet down and to the right, striking a nearby table "really hard," she said.
Her two front teeth hit the table edge head-on, knocking them out.
"I was in shock and there was so much blood," Lynch said of the incident. "I didn't realize at the time how painful it was."
Lynch said she retrieved the two teeth and kept them moist in a glass of milk. However, the oral surgeon she saw some hours later said he was unable to reattach them due to Lynch's broken upper lip bone.
A Sonoma County dentist was able to fit Lynch with a set of temporary front teeth that must be removed when she is eating a meal. He also agreed to put the $700 cost of the temporaries on a monthly payment plan.
Lynch said she is grateful for the temporary teeth -- and for the payment plan -- since they allow her to talk and, most importantly, to smile.
"I'm fine now," she said. "My spirits are back up and I'm feeling normal."
Eventually, Lynch is hoping to find a way to pay for permanent implants. She said she has limited income that mostly goes to pay for rent, food and utilities. Even with insurance, the cost of implants would be prohibitive, she said.
To that end, B & B's Plum and Manager Edie Bradley have started a collection jar at the bar.
Attached to the jar is a flyer that reads, in part, the lyrics from a popular holiday song, usually meant to reference young children waiting for new teeth to replace their baby chompers: "...All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth..."
Lynch said the experience has taught her how to ask for and receive help -- not something she has been that comfortable with in the past, she said.
"I had one customer just give me $100 and walk away," Lynch said with a degree of awe.
"I love my customers --my conversations with customers just make my day," she added. "Knowing that there are people in the community that I like and love really means a lot."