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                   Sunday, March 11, 2012 - 12:20PM CST

PFDA - Pre-Film Development Anxiety (humor relic from the film era)

25 Years of Storm Observing
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SDS (storm deprivation syndrome) is the best-known off-season storm observer ailment. But before the digital age, there was another affliction common to storm observers: PFDA (Pre-Film Development Anxiety). Storm observers who have ever shot film (slides and negatives) are likely very familiar with this temporary - but acute - psychological episode that occurs after every successful storm observation day. When capturing a shot on a film camera, you don't know what you've captured until the film has been taken to a lab and processed. Digital cameras have cured PFDA, which today only affects the small number of holdout storm observers still using film.

Attica, Kansas tornado slideA observer usually experiences PFDA between capturing great storm stills (mostly of lightning, supercells and/or tornadoes) and getting the developed film back from a lab. The anxiety is rooted in the following fears:

  • That the images could have been under/over exposed or out of focus.
  • That the roll of film could be defective.
  • That something will happen to the roll of film (damage or destruction) before it can be developed.
  • That the lab will mess up the development of, lose and/or throw away the film.
So, here's a 'blast from the past', an informational PSA on PFDA posted on the Lightning List in June of 2001 (with a few updates):

Symptoms of PFDA (Pre-Film Development Anxiety):

  • Camping outside the lab overnight to get the film in as soon as they open
  • Calling the photo lab every 2 minutes to see if your slides are done yet
  • Pacing at the lab counter for hours, staring at the technician in the back room
  • Driving by the lab every 10 minutes to make sure it's still there
Having to wait more than a full day for slides/negatives to come back produces severe PFDA symptoms. The victim experiences traumatic nightmares and paranoid thoughts of one or more of the following:
    Charleston, WV lightning negative
  • The lab employee hands you the film envelope. It is completely flat, with a large magic marker note scribbled on it: 'Blank roll - charge $0.00'
  • You walk through the door of the photo lab, and suddenly everyone stops what they're doing and gets real quiet, like you've just walked through the swinging doors of a saloon in an old western movie.
  • You get to the photo lab and it is surrounded by fire trucks and police cars.
  • The owner of the photo lab walks over to you and sheepishly offers to buy you lunch.
  • TV news crews are reporting out in front of where the photo lab building used to be.
  • The 6 o'clock news shows chopper footage of the aftermath of a fiery crash involving a gasoline tanker and a photo lab truck.
  • As you enter the lab, suddenly 3 lab employees run like mad out of the back room screaming and yelling.
  • A priest accompanies the lab technician when he returns to the counter with your film envelope.
  • The lab employee meekly hands you your envelope with a pained expression on his face.
  • The lab employee gives you your film envelope, then runs and hides.
  • Horror movie music begins playing when you enter the front door of the lab.
The only relief for a PFDA patient is the safe receipt of one's successfully-developed film. Until this time, the victim should be distracted as much as possible with lightning and tornado videos.

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