Twenty years ago, paying bills meant shuffling paper: statements came in the mail, I wrote checks & put them in the mail. It was a process that probably hadn’t changed much in a hundred years.

The internet changed all that. (Just like those science-fiction novels I read in the 1970s said it would.) I get email when statements are ready; I download the statements from a web site; payments are automatic, done electronically. It’s rare – not to mention mildly annoying – when I have to put a check in the mail.

But mistakes & weirdness still happen, despite all the high-tech whiz-bangery. The water bill came today, with a Past Due Please Pay Immediately warning and a balance due that’s double the usual amount. But that one’s paid electronically. What?

I suspect it happened because the water company – which calls itself Illinois American, even though it’s owned by a German conglomerate – was a little too eager on the March billing cycle, and started it before the due date of the previous cycle.

The power company likes to move up its billing cycles, perhaps as part of a corporate-sociopath scheme to squeeze thirteen payments into a single year, but even they never try to bill the same amount twice.

I believe I will ignore the Past Due warning and let the automatic-payment system sort out its problems by itself.