Yes, the long-awaited word was passed on to me personally today by both my manager and my district manager - Toby the Mountain Goat is now officially the Childrens' Storytime & Community Event mascot for the B&N in Vancouver!
I was unpacking and sorting books this afternoon when they both came into the warehouse and said they needed a word in the office with me. I guess my expression must have appeared a bit bewildered, as my district manager clarified the situation by adding, "It's about your... f_rs__t"
I felt a pang of anxiety when I heard her say "f_rs__t". The word sounds so foreign and out-of-place when someone outside the furry community uses it in front of you, as if it automatically attains some sort of deeply negative connotation. I was a bit worried.
But once inside the office what I was told was in fact extraodinary good news. The Director of Community Relations at the B&N home office had, after some deliberation with my district and regional managers, consented in allowing me to "suit up" as a mascot for children's events and special occasions at the store. This privilege bestowed upon me is in their estimation possibly the first time any B&N employee has been allowed to use a personal costume on an ongoing basis in this way, most certainly a f_rs__t. It is a unique and precedent-setting decision on my behalf. So cool!
As an amusing side note, I was also told that during the deliberation concering my capacity as mascot, it was not clear to all those present that the "personal costume" I was asking to use was in fact a "f_rs__t". I guess that when the word "fursuit" came up, it had to be explained to a number of them what that actually was. Then, apparently, the room got very quiet for a moment - I wish I could have been there! I deliberately did not use the word "f_rs__t" in any of my emailed requests to them, just for this very reaction I just described. I did this not to mislead anyone or misrepresent myself, but rather so there would be no chance of any negative preconceived notions about the costume. Apparently this "omission" worked, although I deeply believe that no real prejudices were held against the kind of costume I was going to wear.
There were two reasonable concessions that I had to make, however:
The first was that I was a mascot only, and I could not be viewed by either employees or customers as promoting any specific author, book, belief, activity or lifestyle. This, as it turns out, is a terrific turn of events for me. Whereas I was once led to believe that I could only suit up as my mountain goat self when by chance the book being read contained goats, I am actually being allowed to attend all those book readings in which there is no doubt that my character has nothing at all to do with the book being read or the characters inside! I'm not a lawyer, but I presume it's a legal issue concerning unfair usage of copyrighted characters - very few children's book characters are in public domain anymore, not even Mother Goose. As far as not promoting "a belief, activity or lifestyle", this was politely explained to me as directed in my general direction - I cannot state or imply that I am promoting "f_rry". B&N doesn't care that I'm f_rry or actively engage in f_rry activities - in fact, they have always been extremely supportive (and amusingly curious) of me since I "outed" my f_rriness about 9 months ago - they just don't want conservative customers to use this easily misunderstood bit of information about me as an excuse to create a difficult situation, and I completely agree with them. I'm not out to brazenly promote the f_rry community or lifestyle, I just need to be sure that no one else thinks I might be - not a 'prob.
The second concession is a bit distressing - for the moment, no one other than myself (as an employee) can appear suited up for a store event. Again, this is legal issues, as B&N is liable for absolutely anything that a visiting f_rs__ter might say or do, even if the accusation is false (yeah, just like the Disneyworld "Tigger trial"). If my activities in suit prove very succesful, this policy may in future change to accomidate others with proven public events experience, but for now the participation of others will have to wait. Of course, it is probably acceptable for me to wear another suit for a bit of variety (not sure how the owner would feel about that, however).
More information about this will be posted on my personal LJ over the next few days for anyone who is interested further.