MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - There were hundreds of cars, several cops and $10,000 worth of gas. It was a well-meaning holiday gesture that ruffled many feathers in East Memphis when a local church gave away free gas.
It caused a traffic jam at a busy intersection in the morning that stretched well into the afternoon just three days before Christmas. There were no accidents or fights, but the frustrated drivers were joined by others who were thankful.
Was free gas just before Christmas naughty or nice? That depends on if you needed the fuel or just needed to get through traffic. Eastbound Poplar Avenue was packed with vehicles and backed up for blocks as drivers inched their way toward the Shell at Perkins.
"It's a life saver," said Jay Lester, who filled up with free gas. "40 dollars of gas this time of the year with this kind of economy - it's a help for everybody."
But a blessing for one was the bane of another.
Kristen McDonald, who was stuck in traffic, wondered, "Who would ever think of free gas two days, three days before Christmas? That's crazy."
The traffic snarl also held up holiday shoppers at Oak Court like Tiffany Reed, who said she "waited about 15 minutes just to get in the mall's parking lot."
The man behind the benevolent madness was Pastor Jason Ellis from The Body Church.
"It's just an opportunity to bless people in the name of Jesus with some gas and to just be out here doing that," he said. "I did not anticipate getting a phone call at 6 o'clock in the morning that we already had traffic backed up down Poplar, I didn't think it was going to end up this crazy!"
Members of the body church gave away about 250 tickets for $40 of free gas. Some waited five and half hours to fill up their tank, but said it was worth it.
But even those on the receiving end were a little critical, like Paul Hooks. "They could have had this at a better location - definitely, a larger gas station."
Duly noted, said The Body Church, as long as you admit they may have done more good than harm.