Between working full-time jobs and having overtimechildren, sometimes it’s difficult to enjoy a quiet time with one’s spouse.

However, the other night we found ourselves with no children. They were all gone somewhere — it doesn’t really matter where, and we really didn’t care. So we did what couples do when they’re alone in the house together — we went out to dinner.

We wanted to make it special. So I pulled into Wendy’s parking lot … and then decided we wanted something even more special. 

So we went to an honest to goodness restaurant — the kind with metal silverware, glass cups and waitresses with teeth. There would be no unwrapping of burgers. In fact, this restaurant required you to wait for someone to show you your seat. 

“Is this alright?” the hostess asked. All the chairs and tables in the joint were the pretty much the same. I wondered what would happen if I had said, “no.” What if I requested a beanbag chair? Or a table where I could watch “Mystery Science Theater 3000” reruns? Or maybe I could ask for a …

“This is fine,” my wife said, preempting whatever stupid thought was percolating in my brain before it found its way to my mouth. 

Of course you’re not even in the seat before the waitress is asking for your drink order, which isn’t fair. If this is the kind of operation that charges $7 for a Coke, then no, I’ll just stick with water. Also, you can’t order blind; it just starts things off wrong. 

“I’d like a Dr. Pepper,” I said.

“We don’t have that. Is Mr. Pibb OK?”

Well, no. That’s kind of like offering someone rat poison when they ask for cheese. 

All right, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. I’m sure Mr. Pibb is a great guy, but for all his efforts, he’s just not as sophisticated as Dr. Pepper. 

Drinking Pibb when you want Pepper is like going to see Disney’s new “The Lion King,” but when you show up they just play a knockoff dollar store DVD on an old TV titled “The Lion Prince.”

It doesn’t matter, because I liked the original “The Lion King” better anyway, when it was called “Black Panther.” I’m pretty sure Shakespeare based Hamlet on Black Panther, who may have punched Spider-Man at some point. The Lion King never did that.

Drinks are the easy decision. 

It’s the entrée that’s hard. 

Do you order the $27 steak that you know you can cook at home for $10, or the $16 chicken fried steak that may not have actual meat in it?

Do you get something that you know you like, or do you try something new? Take a risk, or play it safe?

It doesn’t matter, because you’re going to pay for whatever you order anyway along with a tip. So you order. 

Then comes the wait. I pass the time playing with straw wrappers, finding ways to balance a fork on the saltshaker and trying to not to be too annoying — tonight is supposed to be special after all.

Then it happens. 

The waitress brings other people their food.

I can’t help it; I have to look. It feels a little creepy, leaning over so far in my chair that I nearly fall, taking an inordinate amount of interest in someone else’s dinner.

“Oh, that looks good,” I say. Then I realize, I should have ordered that, whatever that is, that’s what I want. Not what I ordered — bland cardboard with gruel compared to that amazing dish.  

But it’s too late. Once food is ordered, there is no going back. No one can save you, not even Black Panther.

So dinner arrived. It was fine, but it wasn’t anything special.

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