I had a little surge of feeling successful about my work this week and maybe that propped me up to just call them and get it over with.
So I did, and the wife told me I should be ashamed of myself because I'm supposed to be helping people like them, and that I should just "forget it!" (as if the chance to work with them was a cherished dream I'd been harboring for months). I didn't try to defend myself to her, but I'll say for the record that I ALWAYS give people my card when I meet with them and I implore them, if you don't hear back for awhile and you want to know what's going on, PLEASE call me (because I reckon there're 'bout a hunnerd'r so of y'all and only one of me). Did they ever call during the long period before they called my boss to say what a deadbeat I was? No. Did they fall into the paper abyss? Yes.
Zen Buddhism incorporates a sort of 'repentance' principle:
All the ancient twisted karma,
from beginningless greed, hatred, and ignorance,
born of my body, mouth, and thought,
I now confess openly and fully.
I don't claim to get that completely. I think it means that I'm human and some occurrence of error is utterly unavoidable, and it's best to freely acknowledge it when it occurs and fix it if it's reasonably fixable, but nothing / no one happens in a vacuum, and it's just as unhelpful to define myself by my mistakes as it is to define myself by my successes. Either way I'd be setting myself up for more trouble.
Sorry, angry people. I hope the opportunity to chew me out at last relieved them of some of the burden of their anger but I'm afraid it probably revived it.