The Single Guy spent a part of his recent day off work going to the mall with the Most Awesome Person He Knows and her Youngest. The purpose of the trip was because the Most Awesome Person has taken on some part-time work as a mystery shopper, in which she sneaks into retail stores and solves crimes. For her task that day, she was to go into a particular store alone. Therefore, the Single Guy's main purpose for tagging along was to keep the Youngest company while her mother went about her business.
For a few minutes, the three of them hung out in the children's play area. This small patch of fenced-in carpet at the mall consisted of oversized, foam rubber rocks and other decorations that formed slides and tunnels for kids to crawl over and under. The Youngest began to play, shying away from some of the other, stranger children. Eventually, the Most Awesome Person announced that she was going, but asked the Youngest if she wanted a cookie. Of course she did.
So the Single Guy was left alone with the Youngest. The 3-year-old only asked for her mother once, but the Single Guy reminded her that she had gone to get her a cookie. This explanation for her absence seemed to suffice and she went on climbing rocks and going down the slides.
While keeping his eye on the Youngest, the Single Guy still found it interesting to watch all the other kids interacting with each other. Even at such young ages, it was easy to see which ones would grow up to be bullies, which ones would grow to be pushovers, which ones would grow up to be genuinely kind, and which ones would grow to be mean just to be mean. For example, the woman sitting next to him had to call down her son three different times, putting him in time out, because he was hitting and shoving some of the other kids. That kid has "bully" written all over him.
There was another, older woman who was watching the Single Guy like a hawk. It kind of made him feel uncomfortable knowing how closely he was being watched. It was as if she knew that he didn't belong here. Somehow, she must have sensed that the Single Guy was no father, and therefore had no business being put in charge of any children. The look in her eye was threatening. The Single Guy felt as if she was viewing him as some kind of predator, stalking little children. Needless to say, the Single Guy was more than ready to leave once the Most Awesome Person returned with the Youngest's cookie.
The Most Awesome Person later pointed out that the Hawklady may not have been viewing him as some kind of predator, but as some kind of moron who had no idea what he was doing. She didn't use the word moron, but it's apt. Her thought was that maybe the Hawklady was worried that if the Youngest had a meltdown, then she would have to swoop in and take care of someone else's kid because she just knew the Single Guy would start to panic.
Truth is, if the Youngest had had a meltdown, the Single Guy would have grabbed the kid's flip-flops and suggested that they go find mommy. There was always a contingency plan.