Ah, I was able to recreate the problem of 'plymouth --ping' hanging with
the following test case on an Ubuntu 16.04 system.

1) Run 'sudo /sbin/plymouthd --mode=boot --attach-to-session 
--pid-file=/run/plymouth/pid'
2) Observe plymouthd is running ('ps aux | grep plymouth')
3) stop the plymouthd process 'sudo kill -STOP $PID'
4) Run 'plymouth --ping --debug'

bdmurray@clean-xenial-amd64:~$ plymouth --ping --debug
[ply-event-loop.c:759]               ply_event_loop_stop_watching_fd:stopping 
watching fd 6
[ply-event-loop.c:775]               ply_event_loop_stop_watching_fd:removing 
destination for fd 6

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https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/1705345

Title:
  Installing packages hangs on plymouth --ping

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