1) Second level of the parking lot on the west side of the Mall of America. A lady from India with a little girl about nine-years-old at her side comes up and anxiously asks us to call her husband because she can't find where he's parked.
(No warning sign for us here. We have a neighbor from India whom we love, and therefore we weren't concerned.)
2) Paul punches the number she gives into his cell phone. (Nothing wrong here either but a twinge of caution hits me and I ask Paul to put it on speaker phone because I don't want to give the lady our phone and have her run off with it. Actually, it's an old phone that no one would probably want but she might not know that until she sees it.)
3) The phone rings a while but no one answers. Paul and the lady are talking amiably.
4) I noticed that the little girl by her side is missing. (This is a warning sign but I didn't recognize it.) I had my "fanny pack" (I use it as a purse) on a short strap over my left shoulder and therefore its bulk was under my armpit.
5) I felt a bump on my purse. I looked down and saw the little girl standing at my side and then she gave me a big smile.
6) I moved my arm down - still covering my purse - and put my hand on her head. She just stayed there. After a while she moved back to the lady.
7) We talked some more and I encouraged the lady to contact security to help her find her husband but she didn't want to. (Another possible warning sign... did not want help from security.)
8) We turned to go to our car. I didn't notice where they went but I remember thinking it was strange that I didn't see them walking down the rows if they were looking for her husband.
Now in reality, none of these signs might result in a bad situation. I didn't think of most of them until I decided to write this up when back at home.
Then I asked Paul to look up the phone number she gave us on his cell phone. (This is one of the types of things we learn at the local TRIAD - law enforcement/citizen meetings and by watching CSI type shows on TV.)
How cool! Our cell phone gave us the number - and according to my research on the internet - it's from New Jersey.
I still don't know if the encounter was legit.
But what is more important is that I should be more aware of my surroundings...and warning signs...and memorize what I first see, their faces, marks or scars, what they're wearing, how they walk, anything different that catches your eye.