On the surface of Magrathea, Arthur walks around feeling bored. To alleviate the tedium of waiting, he skims The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, reading a strange story about Zaphod himself, who once convinced a studious graduate student during a night of drinking to get to the bottom of an all-consuming question: what happens to the countless ballpoint pens that have been lost throughout the Galaxy? Closing The Guide, Arthur strikes up an idle conversation with Marvin, who calls the magnificent double-sun sunset “rubbish.” Leaving the depressed robot alone, Arthur wanders around as night falls rapidly. In the quick onslaught of darkness, he suddenly walks into an old man.
The story that Arthur reads in The Hitchhiker’s Guide has little to do with the novel’s primary plot. However, it once again demonstrates Adams’s penchant for absurdist humor and his love of mocking academia. By writing about a graduate student who becomes obsessed with such a trivial project, Adams parodies the intellectual tendency to become absorbed in meaningless topics.