Local News

Motorists get free gas

Posted May 22, 2008 8:32 a.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2008 10:48 p.m. EDT

— More than 150 motorists lined up in neighborhoods surrounding a Shell station participating in a nationwide gas giveaway on Thursday.

After finally making drivers move to a staging area at the Durham County Stadium about a mile away, police escorted them five at a time to the Shell station at 3615 N. Roxboro St. Officers established a one-way flow of traffic through the station.

The first 200 customers got $40 pre-paid gas cards, courtesy of the Verizon Yellow Pages and Superpages.com.

“I feel so blessed. Gas is so high,” said Constance Green, of Durham, who got voucher.

The giveaway was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., but the sheer number of drivers lined up around the station forced employees to begin four hours early.

The first customers started lining up at the station around midnight and camped out overnight.

“It's bad. It's bad. If it goes up another dollar, we'll be buying bikes,” said Derek Eady. 

Eady, of Durham, was one of the first people in line.

By 8 a.m., the station had run out of vouchers for the gas cards – leaving plenty of disappointed customers who showed up later Thursday morning.

Parked cars lined streets around the Shell station, and traffic backed up for miles during the morning rush hour. One traffic jam extended back to Interstate 85, more than 1.5 miles away.

Police said they eventually had to start ordering parked drivers away from the area. Cars lined the streets in one residential area, along Olympic Drive.

To ease congestion, police moved everyone who was in line and had a voucher to the stadium parking lot.

Jamie Wilkins, who is unemployed, said she had 70 cents in her pocket and was running dry on money and gas. The Durham resident's car was pushed into the station.

“I really needed the gas. I was here because I really needed the gas. It was no other way to get anywhere today to get anything accomplished in my life,” Wilkins said.

Verizon officials said the company might repeat the giveaway this summer because gas prices are so high, but could not give any definite plans.

Regular unleaded fuel was going for $3.85 gallon at the Roxboro Street Shell station on Thursday.

The giveaway at 24 stations across the country is part of a promotion to kick off the summer travel season.

Record high gas prices have changed the spending habits of many people.

Durham resident Sonja Fishe said gas prices have led to her family to ride bikes more often. Fishe, a stay-at-home mother of 10 children, also got a job. Instead of taking a vacation this summer, Fishe said her family will camp out in the yard. Fishe and her husband are also trying to save money wherever possible.

“He bought me lettuce for Mother’s Day. Tomato plants for Mother’s Day – which I’m happy to plant so we grow our own food. That’s what we do to cut back,” Fishe said.

Victoria McNeil, also of Durham, cares for her 2-year-old nephew. McNeil is trying to potty train the child so she can save money on diapers. It is either gas or diapers for her nephew, she said.

Ellie Stevenson is using her credit card to pay for gas. The Durham resident said her family has already canceled summer trips to the beach and Disney World because of rising gas prices.

“We’re gonna stay at home and maybe go to the lake a couple times, but not even that many times 'cause to get on the highway and to drive, it cost too much," Stevenson said.