There isn't anywhere else in the world where people are forced to be in such close quarters but aren't expected to speak, but - instead - to just stand and pretend no one else exists.
I mean... sure... in a public bathroom you kind of ignore each other, but in most public bathrooms you're not crammed in next to each other with nothing to do. Unless you're waiting in a line in a bathroom, and line-waiting has its own set of rules, so that doesn't count.
Otherwise, if you get shoved into a small space with another person, there's kind of an expectation that you'll say something - even if it's just "excuse me for invading your personal space."
In the building I used to work in, you saw a bunch of the same people every morning in the elevator. We all got to kind of know each other - at least enough to say "good morning" - and we would push the floor buttons for each other. At the end of the day, we usually took the stairs (much faster), or the people from my office would all get in the elevator together and chat all the way down.
The thing is, though, that people kind of freak when you continue a conversation in an elevator. You can talk on a phone, and people will ignore you. But if you talk to another person, you get that "what are you doing?" look from everyone else.
In our new office, there's really no one around in the elevator in the morning. In the past week, I've only run into two people who weren't from my office. And we both did the "I'm not looking at you, so you're not here" thing. And I got off the elevator on the 5th floor feeling kind of annoyed with myself.
You see, I like it when people look me in the eye, or smile, or even say "hello," when getting on the elevator. If I'm going to be alone in the elevator, I'd prefer to be alone, and not just feel that way.
Our new parking garage, on the other hand, is a whole different thing. Every morning, I enter the garage elevator and there are all sorts of random people. But everyone looks stressed. Which is no fun. I held the door for someone, today, and she didn't even acknowledge me for it. She was too busy pretending she was alone.
At the end of the day, though, I've mostly been walking to the garage with people from work. And we tend to continue our conversations in the elevator. Which confuses the heck out of the other riders. They kind of look at us like we're doing something wrong. And we don't really care.
During a conversation about the possibility of installing a zip line from the garage to our office for a quicker morning entry, last week, I actually caught one guy listening and nodding in agreement with us.
It wasn't a breakthrough - and I haven't seen him again, so we couldn't discuss it more - but it was movement in the right direction. (In this case, up.)