Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day Ninety-Four

Like everyone else, Diane and I have been doing a lot of video calls for the last three months. If we’re together on a call, it’s nice to put it on the big TV in the family room – but that means using a webcam, since the TV doesn’t have a built-in camera (go figure!). We’ve been using alternate firmware on a WyzeCam – it’s got a wide-angle lens, so the picture is a little distorted, and the sound is so muddy we had to use an external microphone. I wanted something better, but early in the lockdown, webcams were almost as hard to find as toilet paper.

On April 12, I saw an ad on Facebook for a webcam from a supplier in China. Their ad and their website led me to assume that it would arrive within a couple of weeks. “Assume” is, of course, a dangerous verb.

Two weeks later, I wrote the supplier and asked what was going on – they said they were in the burn-in process. A week later (April 30) I got a tracking number and thought “I’ll have it soon”. They even gave me a link to a tracking site which showed a status of “shipment authorized” in Shenzhen.

On May 8, I got a message from the USPS telling me that a shipping partner had picked up a package for me in Inglewood, CA (LAX) but that the USPS had not yet received the item. I thought “surely it will be here soon!”

On May 23, the status changed to “Warehouse Shipment, ready for flight” (still in Shenzhen). It made it to Shanghai on May 27, to Inchon (Korea) on May 30, to Tokyo on June 2, and to a US port on June 7.

It cleared customs on June 9, and on June 13, it arrived at a “shipping partner facility, awaiting last mile delivery”.

Activity really picked up late on June 16 – the package arrived at Brisbane, CA (near SFO, less than 50 miles from here) and in quick succession went through three status updates: “Arrived Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item”, “Shipping Partner: Pitney Bowes”, and at 3:15am June 17, it “Arrived at Shipping Facility”.

This morning, I was unsurprised to receive an update that it had been “Accepted at USPS Regional Facility”, but I was shocked to learn that the facility was in Des Moines, Iowa (1800 miles from here). On the other hand, the USPS is giving me an expected delivery date – one week from today, 74 days after I ordered the webcam. It’s the first expected delivery date I’ve had for this shipment, so I guess I should be happy, right?

In the meantime, Amcrest, who made the camera mounted on my garage, emailed me to say that they had webcams available and in stock on Amazon. I ordered this one on Sunday and it arrived today, as promised. It works.

We’ve got a place to use the other webcam if it ever gets here, but it may be a while before I order anything else from a Facebook ad.