Anyway, I was sitting in the play area watching my daughter play with the other kids when she suddenly commented about the baby running off. She was pointing past the exit. I turned and looked and, yep, there was a little kid (probably not much over a year old) toddling for the mall's exit. I quickly scanned to see if any adults seemed to be going after him, and seeing no one, I took off.
The path he chose was not crowded so I didn't exactly run or anything, but just walked with purpose after him. (with my 40" inseam, I cover ground quickly) About halfway there a woman asked if that was my kid. I said "No. He just left the play area and no one went after him, so I thought I should bring him back." About this time (I never stopped walking) he reached the exit and started trying to get past the Salvation Army bell ringer, who was trying to keep him from wiggling through. I got to the kid and offered him my hand. He quite happily took it and I began leading him back to the play area. He traveled just as fast back as he did in his escape attempt.
The bystander was still standing there staring at the scene. She once again asked about his parents. I said that no one seemed to be watching him or noticing that he was gone. I said I just figured I'd get him back in the play area and see who claimed him.
I took him in and was met by my daughter's mom, who loudly asked a chatting woman if this was her kid. She answered "Well, if I have to claim him..."
I told her that he made it all the way to the exit and would have made it outside had the bell ringer not held him back. (Of course, he wouldn't have gotten through the second set of doors, as by that point I was right there.) She just kinda shrugged and led him back to where she was sitting. Then resumed chatting to someone sitting a few feet from her as the kid started playing again.
The bystander came up to me and made some comments about the mother's lack of attention and seemed completely bewildered how anyone could just let their kid wander off that way, and seem so unconcerned after it had happened.
I did notice he was watched a little more carefully after that, since his subsequent escape attempts were thwarted by his mother before he could leave the area.
Just another day...