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.