ELEVATOR attendants in Rio de Janeiro love their dying, chatty trade. And the elevator attendants are under no illusion : Their days are numbered.

Yet the few thousand operators in Rio de Janeiro who have clung to their jobs well into the 21st century are hoping the forces of automation won't entirely obliterate their trade, at least for a few more years.

''You're never bored,'' said Roselia da Conceicao, 53, as she ferried passengers up and down a 23-story building in downtown Rio de Janeiro one morning commanding her bouncy elevator from a tall stool.

''Because you're always talking and interacting with people, you learn a lot and you create a type of intimacy,'' she said.

While Rio de Janeiro may be best known for its beaches and hillside favelas, the city, which was Brazil's capital until 1960, remains one of the country's major business centers, and its downtown is crowded with high-rises and corporate headquarters.

In 1991, a state law made it mandatory for commercial buildings with five or more stories to employ elevator attendants, which is the main reason the city still has a small army of  4,000 operators, said Sandro dus Neves, one of the leaders of the elevator operator's union.

Board elevators in all sorts of buildings downtown, and you will be greeted, again and again, by attendants, some immaculately uniformed.

It feels as if you are stepping back into time for a few seconds, in a pleasant, yet bewildering way.

The ride between floors, becomes a chance for a brief, but sociable encounter   -the sort of a small talk that used to happen all the time at the grocery checkout line, the bank and the airline check-in-counter before artificial intelligence and touch screens phased out those human interactions [and those jobs].

But the trade of  elevator operator, which reached its global heyday in the age of telephone operators and has survived in Rio into the dawn of driverless car era, may finally be fading in this city.

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Ernesto Londono and Lis Moriconi.


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