Free gas draws long lines

May 20, 2008 4:08:59 PM PDT
With the average price of regular unleaded gasoline hitting a national record of $3.80 today, there's no wonder why drivers were lining up by the dozens for a shot at free gas in Philadelphia. Some drivers waited for hours for their chance to fill up at the Lukoil station at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Ave., in the city's Spring Garden section. The line stretched for a mile from Spring Garden, down Columbus Boulevard, and up Frankford Avenue. Drivers sat and waited so long, one car ran out of gas and had to be pushed to the pumps.

As drivers filled up, they were also talking about how they're fed up with the toll expensive gas is taking on their lives.

Anthony and Kisha Pearson, of Yeadon, were first in line arriving at 2 a.m. It takes $120 to fill their van. "With the way things are now you have to decide if you want to fill up your gas tank, pay bills, or put food on the table. We heard about free gas, now we got food for next week," said Pearson.

Annette Powell, of West Philadelphia, sat in line for seven hours. But she says for her $50 tank, "it's worth it."

The free gas giveaway was a publicity stunt for a new soft drink, but serious business for desperate consumers. For some, the high cost of gas is threatening their very survival. Self-employed trades people use their vehicles on the job every day. One of them is Michael Dunn, of Frankford, a roofer who has seen his overhead go through the roof. He could not work in the rain today, so he waited 7 hours to fill his pickup truck for free. Dunn says it costs him about $80 to $100 to fill his tank with regular. "Probably about $120 for the high," Dunn said. He also says he has to fill up every three days.

These days, Melvin Lewis, of West Philadelphia, has Escalade taste on a Prius budget. He said he bought his gas-guzzling SUV when gas cost just over a dollar, which he says he was able to handle then. But now, Lewis said "it's almost $5, it's a little outrageous right now." Asked if he was looking for a buyer for his Escalade, Lewis laughed and said "yes, I am."

The free gas giveaway lasted just an hour, not enough time for everyone in line to get their tank filled. Darren Martin, of North Philadelphia, echoed the sentiments of many drivers who were lucky enough to fill up.

"It's a godsend. I'm glad they decided to come out and do this because last time I didn't make it. So I'm here now and getting pumped up and ready to roll on out and use my free gas."