We’ve all had our fair share of bad dates. It’s doubtful, however, whether anyone has had quite as terrible an experience as unlucky Tinder hopeful Phil Stephenson. Why? Because when he said yes to a romantic getaway in Turkey, he didn’t realize that he’d be walking straight into a military coup.
The story began when Stephenson – a salesman from Darlington, England – was browsing Tinder on a quiet Thursday night. After a few swipes right, the 22-year-old came upon the profile of fellow user Nicole Graham and soon found that they were a match.
Following a very brief chat on the app, Graham – a nurse from the nearby town of South Shields – gave Stephenson her number. It was then that the subject of a jaunt abroad came up, with Graham revealing that she was going on vacation to Turkey the next day.
Stephenson told The Northern Echo, “She gave me a big story about how her mam and sister couldn’t go and asked if I’d come.” Needless to say, it didn’t take him long to make up his mind.
Sure, going to another country for a blind date might seem insane to a lot of us, but Stephenson wasn’t deterred. In fact, the young lothario agreed to the trip on the spot. And so, excited by the spur-of-the-moment decision – and no doubt, the prospect of a free vacation – he traveled to the airport to meet his paramour for the very first time.
However, during the flight the would-be couple soon realized that they weren’t quite as good a match as Tinder had suggested. “She was coming on too strong,” Stephenson told The Daily Star. “For me it was just a bit of banter, like two mates going away together.”
And unfortunately for this unwilling Casanova, things were going to go from bad to much, much worse. Yes, when the plane touched down at the seaside town of Marmaris, Stephenson and Graham discovered first hand that something very wrong was happening in Turkey.
That evening, Turkish military vehicles had started to move on to the streets in the country’s major cities, and soldiers ordered citizens to remain in their homes. Soon, a statement appeared via state media confirming peoples’ fears: a military coup was underway.
The militants claimed to have taken control of the country in an attempt to reinstall Turkey’s secularist traditions. But the government fought back, insisting that only a fraction of the nation’s armed forces were even involved in the coup.
While a curfew was called, soldiers – reportedly spurred on by radical cleric Fethullah Gülen – took control of major transport hubs and blockaded Istanbul’s main bridges. Meanwhile, rebels and loyalists clashed violently on the streets of Ankara and Marmaris.
Stephenson wasn’t the only person trapped in Marmaris, either: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was, fortuitously, also vacationing in the resort. And later that night the leader appeared on Turkish TV and urged the people to unite against the attacks.
In response to Erdoğan’s broadcast, citizens appeared in droves to oppose the attempted takeover. The result was horrific violence and mass casualties. Everywhere there was chaos: buildings were ransacked, protestors were fired upon, and reports also surfaced of attacks on parliament offices.
Thankfully, the battle didn’t last long, and by Saturday morning dissenters had abandoned their posts. Civilians, meanwhile, cheered from the top of abandoned tanks as police and loyal army officials began making arrests. Furthermore, over 7,000 military and judicial officials were taken into custody as the government took back control.
However, renewed stability doesn’t come cheap, and the coup came at a heavy price for the Turkish people. Indeed, reports estimate that 232 people – the majority of whom were civilians – lost their lives, while a further 1,400 were injured. Furthermore, now Erdoğan has even considered reinstating the death penalty.
Meanwhile, Stephenson and his date were taking shelter in Marmaris’ Club Lyka Hotel, where they witnessed the prevailing panic and confusion. It was pretty terrifying, too: while helicopters churned overhead and gunshots echoed through the street, a pair of police officers lost their lives close to his accommodation and a gunship was shot down nearby.
But for Stephenson there was one thing more terrifying than even guns and bombs: his date. Because despite the very real possibility of death, the endangered tourist was more concerned about the ever-increasing advances of his companion. “My mates are telling me to stick it out because it’s so funny,” he told The Independent. “But it’s not ISIS or terrorists I’m scared of – it’s her.”
“I thought she was going to be the female version of me, but she wanted romance,” he continued. What’s more, it seems that Graham wasn’t going to let being in a war zone stop her plans for a romantic getaway. “She was asking people round the pool for romantic restaurants,” Stephenson added. “I’m not about that.”
For her part, Graham was equally unimpressed with her would-be suitor. Speaking to The Northern Echo, she described the whole experience as “a nightmare from start to finish.” As for Stephenson, she claimed that he was “100 per cent boring.” And to add insult to injury, she said the likely lad had also left her with a $105 bar tab and ransacked her toothpaste tube.
Love certainly wasn’t blossoming, then, but the pair had no choice but to stick it out until transport restrictions within Turkey were lifted. Thankfully, however, they managed to survive the coup – and the date – unscathed.
Stephenson managed to return home safely on Monday. And – far from being traumatized by his Tinder travels – he’s now heading out on another holiday to Ibiza. Here’s hoping he’s not quite so unlucky in love over there.