That is exactly it. GoDaddy doesn't give any sort of courtesy heads up. Expiration date was yesterday at midnight. When billing failed (despite the fact that I'm a customer in good standing with a mess of other domains) they IMMEDIATELY parked the domain. I imagine I selected auto-renew because it seemed like I was less likely to screw up renewing the domain. I no longer think that's the safe path.
That is absolutely false. Domain expiration date for RescueTime.com was the 14th (yesterday). This AM I did a gmail search for "GoDaddy RescueTime" and the only thing they sent me regarding this was midnight last night when they shut it off. I have dozens of recent automated emails from GoDaddy and also checked my spam folder just to make sure my anger wasn't unfair.